mayoral control

State reaches deal on mayoral control, giving Mayor Bill de Blasio a two-year extension

PHOTO: Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office.

Lawmakers in the state Assembly and Senate have finally passed a deal on mayoral control of New York City’s public schools, giving Mayor Bill de Blasio a two-year extension — his first multi-year deal since taking office in 2014.

The Senate passed the bill Thursday afternoon, just one day before mayoral control was set to expire on June 30 at midnight. It was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo shortly after 3 p.m.

Included in the so-called “big ugly” are also measures renewing a slate of local taxes and renaming the Tappan Zee Bridge for the late Governor Mario Cuomo. The bill language does not include any provisions benefiting the charter school sector, which Senate Republicans had initially hoped to get in exchange for mayoral control.

Perhaps most notably, the bill gives de Blasio two years of mayoral control. Though former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had mayoral control deals for six and seven years, de Blasio had until now failed to secure more than a one-year extension — despite his repeated requests for multi-year deals.

“Providing a two-year extension gives the system an important measure of stability that’s key to initiatives that have produced record achievement,” the mayor said in a statement. “Our state government’s action allows us to refocus our attention away from the political process and back to our classrooms, where it belongs.”

After a long day of closed-door meetings between the governor and leaders of both parties, the agreement was hashed out by Assembly lawmakers in the early hours of Thursday morning during a special legislative session called by Cuomo. The regular legislative session had already ended last Wednesday with lawmakers failing to come to an agreement on mayoral control.

It remained unclear Thursday morning if Senate Republicans would go along with the Assembly bill. At around 1 p.m., Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins released a statement, calling Thursday “another day and another example of dysfunction in the Senate,” and asking Republicans to wrap up their discussion and bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

Just after 2 p.m., Senate Republicans did just that and the bill passed the Senate with a 48–2 vote, with Republicans Terrence Murphy and James Tedisco voting against it.

“We came to a responsible agreement that extends mayoral control of the New York City schools for two years while ensuring that charter schools continue to play an important role in the education of schoolchildren there,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said in a statement shortly after the bill passed.

Flanagan tried unsuccessfully to link mayoral control to charter school expansion. The state Senate passed a series of bills earlier this year with different options for tying the extension of mayoral control to school choice, including lifting the cap on charters in New York City.

But trading mayoral control for charter school concessions was a “non-starter” for Assembly Leader Carl Heastie, leading to last week’s impasse.

If a deal had not been reached by the June 30 deadline, New York City schools would have reverted back to a disjointed system with 32 community school boards — an outcome many were eager to avoid.

Monica Disare contributed reporting.


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”