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Thursday, July 16, 2009

NYS Senate Doesnt Jump Into Mayoral Control of the New York City Public Schools...Yet

Kruger: Mayoral Control Bill 'DOA'
By Jimmy Vielkind,

ALBANY—School governance legislation is in trouble.

A meeting last night between Senator John Sampson, the Democratic conference leader, and Senators Bill Perkins and Shirley Huntley with Deputy Mayors Kevin Sheekey and Dennis Walcott did not go well, a Democratic source said. Depending on the outcome of a Democratic conference scheduled for noon, the legislation might not be acted on. Some senators remain stridently opposed.

"That Assembly school governance bill is not a negotiated bill. It's DOA. City Hall is not a fourth branch of government," Senator Carl Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, just told me by phone. "Let's put it this way—to the extent that I can influence, I think they're going to hear the strong positions of the conference itself. We should be able to control the active list. Since we're in charge of the active list, then we have to bear a responsibility for what's on it."

The bill is not on an active list posted this morning. Austin Shafran, a Democratic spokesman, said "that list is not inclusive of all the bills that will be acted on today. More can be added.

"That's up to the members to decide," he said of the school governance legislation. "The importance of the issue hasn't diminished. But members of the conference still have some concerns of whether or not there will be enough measures to increase accountability and parental input."

Republicans were hoping to act on the school governance bill that already passed the Assembly. Democrats have proposed amendments to that bill, but some favor its passage. One of them, Senator Daniel Squadron, is on his honeymoon and will not be in session today.

"It's my understanding that that issue will come up today and tomorrow," Senator Tom Libous, a Binghamton Republican, told Fred Dicker on his radio show. "There's votes in our conference and some votes in the other conference, I suspect once it hits the floor it will pass. I don't see that issue as controversial."

Jimmy Vielkind can be reached via email at

July 16, 2009
Bloomberg’s School Control Bill Is Stalled in the Senate

ALBANY — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s efforts to renew his control of New York City’s school system stalled on Wednesday as Senate Democrats insisted that they would not vote on a plan the mayor favors until he agreed to compromise on several key areas.

Talks between the mayor’s staff and groups of Democrats from the city who are seeking to amend the bill remained at an impasse on Wednesday.

Both sides appeared to only dig their heels in deeper, undercutting hopes that a resolution could be reached soon. The mayor, who has said the bill needs immediate approval so the school system can have a clear line of authority, was resolute about considering no changes. Senate Democrats, who would leave the mayor’s power intact but want some revisions, like giving parents opportunities to be more involved, said the bill was going nowhere without the changes. The Assembly passed the bill in mid-June.

The mayor’s chief spokesman, Stu Loeser, said in a written statement that the Senate was holding the bill hostage “to amendments that have not been the subject of public input, and which can be dealt with at a later date.” Mr. Loeser said the mayor would ask Gov. David A. Paterson to call the Senate back into special session until it passes the bill. Mr. Paterson’s office had no immediate response.

Democrats accused Mr. Bloomberg, whose power over the school system expired on June 30, of being inflexible.

“If the mayor’s people would just sit down at a table for an hour with a pencil and our amendments, this would all be over,” said Senator Eric T. Schneiderman, who represents parts of the Upper West Side and the Bronx.

Perhaps drawing on lessons learned from previous confrontations in Albany, Mr. Bloomberg stayed away from the Capitol while the school control bill was being negotiated. Members of his staff, including Deputy Mayors Dennis M. Walcott and Kevin Sheekey, who arrived in Albany on Wednesday, have been doing most of the talking with senators.

Still, even without Mr. Bloomberg’s involvement, the meetings have been testy. Members of the mayor’s staff met on Tuesday night with Senator Shirley L. Huntley of Queens to discuss her amendments, which would create a council to promote cultural education, establish a commission to study school safety and provide training for parents who want to be more involved.

“It wasn’t a good meeting,” Ms. Huntley said on Wednesday. “They don’t want to concede anything. We’re not asking for big things here. We’re not trying to break his power.”

Other proposals Democrats are discussing include limiting members of the school system’s governing board to fixed two-year terms and requiring that one of the mayor’s appointees to the board be a parent of a special education student.

School control was just one of several issues that senators were wrangling with on Wednesday. The division of Senate resources between Republicans and Democrats and rules changes that would empower rank-and-file senators were discussed at length. The Senate was scheduled to convene at 1 p.m., but by midnight, it had only taken up nominations sent by the governor, while Senate leaders continued to deliberate.

Javier C. Hernandez contributed reporting.

State Senate Puts Mayoral Control On Ice, Again
By: NY1 News

The State Senate was supposed to take up the issue of mayoral control of city schools Wednesday night, but it didn't even reach the floor.

In a Senate session that started seven hours late, the Democrats declined to take up the issue without making amendments to it.

The main change calls for the creation of a state commission on public safety, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg feels amendments aren't needed and pressed to keep lawmakers in Albany.

Amendments would have added oversight councils on arts and safety, among other changes.

"They're not God. We have the right to do an amendment. We have a right," said State Senator Shirley Huntley. "In this political structure since I've been here, everybody's afraid of someone. I'm afraid of no one. Who the hell cares? It's everybody is afraid that this one will be angry and that one will be angry, but if you came to operate on behalf of your constituents, you don't care."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said it is too late for his house to change a bill that passed handily.

"The assembly has already passed the school governance of mayoral control in agreement with the governor and the mayor, so there's no reason for the assembly to return in August to achieve that," said Silver. "We've already done that in mid-June."

Control of city schools reverted back to the Board of Education on July 1 when the law expired during the month long power struggle in Albany.

Wednesday's senate agenda was also expected to include rules reform and the allocation of member items. Instead, state lawmakers concentrated on less controversial issues including the confirmation of several judges.

Meanwhile, a Long Island judge heard arguments Wednesday on the legality of Governor David Paterson's appointment of Richard Ravitch as lieutenant governor but did not render a decision.

State Supreme Court Justice William LaMarca heard from attorneys for the governor and from attorneys for two state senators who oppose the appointment as being unconstitutional.

LaMarca did not indicate when he might rule.

Senate Dems In No Rush On Mayoral Control
Daily Politics
July 16, 2009
We could be in for another long day here at the Capitol.

Key Democratic senators told the DN's Glenn Blain they are still awaiting word from Team Bloomberg as to whether any amendments to the Assembly mayoral control bill are acceptable.

It remains unclear if the measure will be voted on today.

“I think that we will conference and whatever is good for the children of the city of New York is what the conference will do,” said Sen. Shirley Huntley, who is sponsoring one of the three Democratic chapter amendments to the Assembly bill.

“And we’re not in a hurry. I could be here forever,” the Queens lawmaker added.

Huntley said she met this morning with Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott to discuss “issues” - including a memorandum of understanding and the proposed chapter amendments. Huntley mentioned that she wanted to see the role of district superintendents enhanced.

“We don’t feel you should pay superintendents $200,000 a year just to deal with parent problems,” she said.

Huntley said she would prefer that the Senate not vote today and instead wait for the Assembly to come back this fall so the two houses can vote on the chapter amendments at the same time.

“I doubt it will,” Huntley said when asked whether the Assembly bill will be acted upon today.

Republican Sen. Marty Golden went even further, saying flatly: "It's not going to happen". He blamed the Democrats for continuing to pile on amendments that the Bloomberg administration can't - or won't - accept.

Sens. Jeff Klein and Eric Schneiderman, however, were a bit more optimistic, saying negotiations are still underway.

“I’m hopeful,” Klein said. “I think it needs to be done...I would stay as long as it takes.”

Schneiderman insisted the entire matter could be resolved with “an hour of negotiations with people who are empowered to make a decisions," adding: "We can do this.”

Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey was in Albany yesterday to participate in the mayoral control talks, but has since departed for Washington, D.C., where the mayor is scheduled to testify on behalf of US Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

NYS Senate Nears Mayoral Control Vote
by Beth Fertig

NEW YORK, NY July 14, 2009 —Democrats who narrowly control the New York State Senate are getting closer to voting on a bill to extend mayoral control of the city schools, two weeks after the law expired during the leadership feud in Albany. WNYC's Beth Fertig has more.

REPORTER: A handful of Senate Democrats kept the bill from being voted on last week, when the Senate returned to session. They thought the Assembly's version didn't put enough checks on the mayor's power.

Now, three amendments to the bill call for creating a new council to monitor arts in education and parent training centers. There are also proposals to create a commission that would review data on police in the schools.

Senate leaders expect to vote on the Assembly bill and some combination of the amendments all at once. None of the changes goes as far as some originally wanted to limit the mayor's influence over the schools, and any changes would require final approval from the Assembly. For WNYC I'm Beth Fertig.

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