Chancellor Carmen Fariña continued to make the case for a long-term extension of mayoral control on Wednesday, as New York lawmakers fired back sharp questions about the city’s school-turnaround program and the need for a lengthy extension.
Testifying before state lawmakers, Fariña said that her long career in education has taught her that bureaucracies “do harm education,” presumably referring to the local school boards that held more power before New York City’s mayor was given control of the school system in 2002. To ensure stability and continue the city’s record of success, she said, lawmakers should extend the current system for at least seven years.
“I would never have taken this job if I was not going to have a mayor who was going to have my back,” Fariña said.
The legislature granted de Blasio only a one-year extension of mayoral control last year, in a major blow to the mayor who had asked for permanent control of the school system. Republican legislators led that charge against de Blasio, and some of Fariña’s sharpest questions at Wednesday’s hearing came from the influential Republican Senator Carl Marcellino.
Marcellino, who chairs the Senate’s education committee, asked Fariña about the status of the city’s “Renewal” program, a turnaround effort designed to flood struggling schools with resources. He also asked whether she plans to close schools, a strategy favored by de Blasio’s predecessor Michael Bloomberg.
Fariña responded that she does plan to do so, repeating her stance that shuttering schools should remain an option when they do not improve after being given time and resources. Just last month, the city announced plans to close three struggling schools, citing their poor performance and low enrollment.
Marcellino also asked Fariña to justify a seven-year extension. When she began to talk about de Blasio’s track record, the senator interrupted to point out that de Blasio might not be in office for the next seven years.
Farina didn’t miss a beat, responding that the debate about the length of mayoral control has become a political game.
“That’s politics with a capital P,” Fariña said. “I’m just saying that from the point of view of the chancellor … I can’t image anyone running for mayor at any time who’s not going to want mayoral control.”
De Blasio told lawmakers on Tuesday that mayoral control is the only way to efficiently run a school system with 1.1 million students. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who opposed the mayor’s bid for permanent mayoral control last year, said he plans to assess de Blasio’s long-term education vision and the progress of the city’s struggling schools before signing off on a longer extension.
Governor Andrew Cuomo supports a three-year extension.