who rules the schools

As lawmakers near a deal, Heastie says de Blasio ‘OK with’ short mayoral control extension

PHOTO: Geoff Decker
De Blasio testifying in Albany in support of renewing mayoral control in February.

As state lawmakers near a final deal, Mayor Bill de Blasio has apparently resigned himself to a one-year renewal of mayoral control.

“He says we’ll live to fight another day,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters, referring to de Blasio, as his members filed out of a private meeting about the final details of a long-awaited legislative deal on Thursday. “He was OK with the one-year.”

Heastie, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Senate leader John Flanagan announced that their end-of-session deal would extend mayoral control of New York City schools for just one year on Tuesday, and de Blasio has yet to comment publicly on the short extension, saying Wednesday that he would have “plenty to say” after the session was over. One year is a far cry from the mayor’s request in February for lawmakers to make mayoral control permanent, and could be the biggest loss for de Blasio in this year’s legislative session.

A spokesperson for de Blasio, who spoke at the Boys and Girls High School graduation ceremony Thursday morning, did not immediately confirm Heastie’s comments.

The 2002 state law that grants the mayor authority over the city school system is due to expire in five days. De Blasio had his sights set on making the law permanent, but eventually conceded that a three-year extension proposed by the Assembly and Cuomo would suffice.

But de Blasio faced an unwilling negotiating partner in the State Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, and feuded with Cuomo, a fellow Democrat with starkly different ideas about education policy. Leadership turnover in both the Assembly and the Senate further complicated the political dynamics.

Heastie said that Assembly members “were fine giving the mayor three years,” but that a one-year renewal was something that Senate Republicans were unwilling to budge from.

“I think it is wrong to not want to give the stability to New York City schools,” Heastie said. “You’d have to ask Senator Flanagan why they refused to move on it.”

Lawmakers said Thursday that they were nearing a final deal, after staying in Albany more than a week past when the legislative session was supposed to end. Final legislative language still had not been released.

Mayoral control was one of several education issues on the table during this year’s end-of-session negotiations. Lawmakers also say they agreed to a modest increase in the number of charter schools allowed to open in New York City and to changes meant to improve transparency around the state’s testing program.

Flanagan and the State Senate are scheduled to arrive at the Capitol Thursday afternoon to vote on legislation.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.