Gov. Hochul extends mayor’s control over city’s school system for two years, delays expansion of Panel for Education Policy

New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters about legislation passed during a special legislative session in the Red Room of the State Capitol, Friday, July 1, 2022, in Albany, NY AP photo by Hans Pennink

Governor Kathy Hochul on Thursday night signed a bill that extends the mayor’s control of New York City schools for the next two years.

But his signing came with a change: The expansion to eight members of the city’s education panel, which was passed as part of the original bill, will be delayed for five months.

The mayor’s check – which allows the mayor to choose the chancellor of schools and appoint a majority of members to the city’s education committee – was due to expire at midnight on Friday.

The bill, passed by New York lawmakers on June 3, needed the governor’s signature to become law. Legislators typically authorize the governor’s office to request bills for its review, as it has hundreds of them to review and sign. But Hochul didn’t call the mayor’s control legislation until around 9:20 p.m. Thursday.

Hochul’s office declined to say why she waited to sign the bill or whether Mayor Eric Adams was pushing for changes, saying only in statements this month that she had “consistently supported the mayor’s control “.

John Liu, New York State Senator from Northeast Queens’ 11th District and lead sponsor of the bill expanding the mayor’s control over the city’s school system.
Photo courtesy of @LiuNewYork on Twitter

On Thursday night, Democratic Queens Sen. John Liu, one of the bill’s main sponsors, said he was negotiating changes with Hochul. She eventually signed it with a deal with lawmakers to delay the expansion of the Panel for Educational Policy, or PEP — a largely mayor-appointed council that approves major contracts and policy decisions, such as school closings and the city’s school funding formula. Originally slated to grow from 15 members to 23 starting August 15, the expansion and first term limits for panel members will now be pushed back to January 15, 2023.

Lawmakers will vote in January, at the start of their next session, to adopt these changes, which is a usual time to vote on amendments to bills they have already passed, said Soojin Choi, spokesperson for Liu. .

The amendment to the bill was intended to “ensure the city has enough time” to establish the largest PEP, Hochul wrote in his letter endorsing the bill. That gives the panel appointees — including Adams — an extra five months to make their picks. Adams failed to appoint the nine people he currently appoints on time, and one was forced to resign, preventing the city from getting enough votes on some policy proposals.

Adams, who endorsed Hochul in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, and Schools Chancellor David Banks both expressed disappointment with the bill when it passed earlier this month. It extended the mayor’s control for half the time Adams and Hochul had requested, and it added provisions intended to water down Adams’ control of the Panel for Educational Policy.

Seal of the Panel for Education Policy, also known as the New York City Board of Education., the governing body of the NYC Dept. of Education.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia user Beyond My Ken

Lawmakers passed the mayoral control bill earlier this month as part of a package deal with a separate bill that would require the city to reduce class sizes at all levels. The class size bill passed nearly unanimously, but city officials and a budget watchdog raised concerns it would be too costly to implement .

Hochul still hasn’t asked for the class size bill, which has angered some lawmakers, advocates and the teachers’ union in the city.

“We call on the governor to sign this legislation now,” Michael Mulgrew, president of the teachers’ union, said in a statement Friday morning. “Our students can’t wait.”

When asked if Adams was pressuring the governor to change any of the bills, City Hall spokesperson Amaris Cockfield said they weren’t commenting on “private conversations “. In a statement Friday morning, Adams thanked Hochul for signing the mayor’s check.

Had the bill not been signed, the city would have had to reconstitute the old system of 32 community school boards, plus a city board of education, made up of members appointed by each of the five borough presidents and two by the mayor’s office.

But it’s not clear that much would have changed immediately afterwards. When the mayor’s control expired for a month under former mayor Michael Bloomberg, the reconstituted council voted to appoint Chancellor Joel Klein.

Here’s how the mayor’s control will change in New York:

  • The powers of the mayor will be extended until June 30, 2024.
  • The PEP will grow from 15 to 23 members.
  • The mayor will still appoint a majority of the PEP, with 13 choices from January 15, 2023, four more than he currently chooses. Each borough president will continue to appoint one member each. The chairs of the city’s 32 Community Education Councils, or CECS, which represent each local school district and can shape school zone boundaries, will elect five members — four more than currently — who must each represent a borough. different.
  • Four of the mayor’s appointees must be parents of a child attending the city’s public schools, up from two currently. They must include at least one with a child with a disability, one with a child in a bilingual or ESL program, and one with a child enrolled in District 75, which serves the most disabled students.
  • Each PEP member will serve a one-year term that may be renewed annually. The mayor and borough presidents can no longer dismiss PEP members for voting against their will. Previously, proxies didn’t have to share why they wanted to remove someone.

Reema Amin is a journalist covering New York City schools with a focus on state politics and English learners. Contact Reema at [email protected]

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