NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio suffered a bipartisan drubbing at a New York state hearing on mayoral control of schools Thursday – and he wasn’t even there.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the state Senate is considering limiting the mayor’s powers because of ongoing corruption probes.
De Blasio said he didn’t need to attend the Thursday hearing, which was being held across from City Hall, because he already spent four hours testifying to the same committee in Albany and said it’s now time for lawmakers to vote.
“I think I’ve spent the time and shown the respect for the Senate, but now the facts are in and it’s time for them to decide,” he told 1010 WINS. “We’ve got 1.1 million kids depending on the state Senate to keep in place the only form of governing in our schools that’s ever worked.”
But the mayor’s choice not to attend simply didn’t sit well with the state senators at the hearing on whether to grant him an extension of his power to control city schools.
“This is such an important issue; such a top priority for the mayor, and yet, he’s not here. He’s chosen to be at radio shows and not be at this hearing,” said state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-The Bronx). “If this is such a priority… the mayor should be at these hearings.”
Kramer said the astonishing thing about that statement is that it came from one of the mayor’s fellow Democrats. While Republicans also loudly voiced their displeasure about the mayor’s decision to boycott the hearing, it was Peralta who brought up the elephant in the room – the ongoing corruption probes and the role they might play in extending the mayor’s powers over city schools.
“I understand the mayor comes here, and he says that he wants seven years, but that’s with the assumption that he’s going to be the mayor again,” Peralta said. “What if he’s not the mayor again?”
Members of the state Senate Education Committee closely questioned schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña about everything from crime to graduation rates. But they kept coming back to the fact that the state contributes $9 billion – 41 percent of the city education budget – and their obligation to make sure it is spent wisely.
State Sen. Joseph Addabo Jr. (D-Queens) said he wanted the mayor, not Fariña, to respond.
“What is the strategy for the mayor to convince the state that mayoral control should be extended?” Addabo said.
“I do think we’ve made ourselves extremely accessible, and in terms of his particular schedule, I do not want to answer for him, but for me, my job is to work in the city with the schools and the leaders of the schools as much as I can,” Fariña said.
Meanwhile, some parents also protested de Blasio’s choice not to attend the hearing, They wanted to hear the mayor address what some see as an education crisis in some neighborhoods, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.
“Mayor de Blasio is like a kid who unprepared for a test,” one parent said. “He skipped out on the hearing.”
“It is unbelievable that Mayor de Blasio has decided not to attend the hearing today,” another woman said.
With a student in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, one mom said de Blasio should be accountable for the quality of her child’s education.
“The mayor claims he’s making schools better, but I’m just not seeing that in my neighborhood,” she said.
For his own part, the mayor did three separate radio shows, each time saying again that he testified for four hours in Albany and that was enough.
The mayoral control bill is due to expire next month if state legislators don’t approve an extension.
The bill was passed by the state Assembly on Tuesday. It would renew mayoral control for three more years, though de Blasio previously wanted the policy renewed for seven years.
The mayor has since lowered his request to the state Senate to three years, but so far, it has indicated that it’s only willing to provide a one-year extension.
De Blasio released a letter sent from more than 100 members of the Partnership for New York City to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Senate leaders demanding an extension.
The mayor also noted Thursday that when former Mayor Michael Bloomberg went to Albany seeking an extension, he “didn’t attend a single hearing, but still got a six-year extension.”
“The previous approach to running our schools was filled with chaos and absolutely corruption as well. I don’t think our legislators in Albany seriously want to take us backwards, so if they know this is the only system that works, why don’t we get to the point of moving forward,” de Blasio told WCBS 880. “The facts are clear, the evidence is clear, we’ve presented it, now we need the state Senate to support the children on New York City.”
But State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) has criticized de Blasio for not knowing enough about his city schools.
He said he was “extremely disappointed the mayor doesn’t believe the hearing is significant enough to attend.”
Albany sources told Kramer that while no final decision has been made, the state Senate is leading toward only a one-year extension of school control for de Blasio because he has been “uncooperative” and there are still too many unanswered questions.