Senate Democrats Ready to Talk School Governance
July 1st, 2009

Senate Democrats are now very interested in addressing school governance. Today at a press conference Democratic leader Sen, John Sampson said he would like to start discussions with Mayor Michael Bloomberg about school governance legislation.

But yesterday, during their legally questionable voting spree, Democrats ignored the school governance measure, that had already passed in the Assembly. The Assembly bill would largely retain the Mayor’s general authority over schools.

What has changed in the last 24 hours to make Senate Democrats suddenly interested, even though the leadership struggle has yet to be decided? Oh, that’s right! Mayoral control of schools expired last night at midnight.

Sampson said today that he wants to “strengthen” the Assembly’s school governance bill and now clearly he feels he has more bargaining power to do that. At a press conference today, Sampson scolded a reporter, saying the proper term was not “mayoral control” but “school governance.”

A number of Democrats had been clearly preparing for the legislation to sunset, some seemed excited by the prospect. They called the June 30 deadline “arbitrary” and were clearly gearing up for post-control negotiations.

With mayoral control expired, Democrats expect to get concessions from Bloomberg and from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Sampson said he expected discussions with both men to start shortly. Some senators said that the Democrats voted down a sales tax increase (which would have helped the city balance its budget) only as a means to gain leverage in negotiations with Bloomberg.

Bloomberg has called the Democrats’ actions “irresponsible.” Silver said earlier in the year that he was not interested in tinkering with the Assembly bill.

But the real question is: ‘What kind of productive discussion can take place when the Senate leadership struggle has not been settled?’ If Republicans were to take control of the chamber or even agree to a power-sharing agreement, Bloomberg would likely get a an outcome he favors.

Both sides have said they will negotiate tomorrow. But if things go as they have in the past few weeks, the negotiations could be scuttled at the last minute or simply degenerate into chaos. For their part, Democrats have continued to say they are less interested in the leadership issue than they are focused on doing the “people’s business.” Today, for the first time in a while, mayoral control has become a part of that business.

By on July 1, 2009, 3:48 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Senate Democrats Ready to Talk School Governance

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