Debate Intensifies In Albany
Legislative leaders are dug in on remaining issues in the 2017 session and are accusing each other of unfairly linking unrelated items to renewal of mayoral control over New York City schools. Time is running out for scheduled meetings.
The renewal of mayoral control of New York City schools faces a hard deadline. It expires at the end of the month.
Senate Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan, who along with his GOP members has released three different bills, said he supports the concept and believes something can get done in the next few days before the session is scheduled to end.
“We believe in mayoral control,” said Flanagan. “Between now and June 21, we will do the people’s business.”
All of the Senate’s bills on mayoral control include provisions to strengthen charter schools, which Flanagan said are an integral part of the public school system.
“Let’s be clear, by law, charter schools are public schools,” Flanagan said.
During debate on the Senate floor, Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat, said linking the two items are a “diversion,” and that lawmakers should be cautious that they don’t “siphon off resources.”
“In some cases, they are a shoehorn to the privatization of our education system,” Hoylman said.
Hoylman attempted to link the Republican senators’ proposals to the actions of President Donald Trump’s administration and his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who favors school vouchers.
“Where we are giving up on our public education in favor of privatization,” Hoylman said.
Flanagan, who was formerly the chamber’s Education Committee chair, defended the bill on the floor. He denied it has anything to do with Republicans in Washington.
“Honestly, I don’t know what the heck you are talking about,” said Flanagan. “I’m not guided by what’s happening in Washington. I’m guided by what’s happening here.”
Democrats are in the minority in the Senate, but they control the state Assembly. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie also opposes linking the extension of mayoral control to sweeteners for charter schools and has already called the Senate bills a “nonstarter.”
“We’re not doing them,” Heastie said.
The Assembly bill to renew mayoral control is also linked to a seemingly unrelated item — a provision to allow counties in upstate and on Long Island to keep charging sales tax.
Flanagan said Assembly Democrats are being hypocritical, though. He said they are against linking mayoral control to charter school issues, but at the same time have tied the measures to the state sales tax. He said at least the Senate bills all related to education matters.
“They have decided to take a different tack, and hold hostage a number of our colleagues for revenue in their local communities,” said Flanagan.
Heastie has explained that he believes the two measures are related.
“I look at it as respecting every single county’s wish,” Heastie said.
The speaker said he is discussing mayoral control and the sales tax renewals with the Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Flanagan concurred that talks are going on behind the scenes as the countdown to the end of the session continues.