New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio visited lawmakers in the state’s capital in Albany on this week to ask legislators to renew control of city schools to the mayor’s office. But his visit gave one lawmaker an opportunity to criticize the mayor’s fundraising pursuits.
“Convince me. Convince me why I should vote for mayoral control with all the allegations that are going on in your office,” state Sen. Terrence Murphy, a Republican from the Dutchess County area of the Hudson Valley asked the mayor as he testified before the state Senate Education Committee.
But de Blasio said his administration was responsible for improved numbers of high school graduations and extended pre-K across the city. He added that the federal inquiries alluded to by Murphy have not been examined in court, reports The Wall Street Journal’s Mara Gay.
“In democracy we don’t judge by allegations, we judge by facts and through due process,” he said.
The allegations concerned allies of the mayor who gave money to Putnam County’s Democratic committee that was used to fund Justin Wagner (D), Murphy’s 2014 opponent.
The probe is investigating whether de Blasio and his supporters violated campaign laws concerning funding for this 2014 attempt at helping Democrats win control of the New York Senate.
But the subject at hand was the mayor’s request that the mayor’s office have seven years of control over the school system in NYC. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has already suggested a three-year extension of the policy.
Last year, de Blasio requested permanent control, but was given a one-year period of authority. Now the renewal must be sought again.
The mayor quoted former Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said when he was in office that the board system “makes no sense.”
De Blasio had garnered supporters in recent weeks among religious, nonprofit, and business leaders. Dozens of his allies sent letters to legislators and the governor asking them to agree to multi-year extensions of the policy. The current control by the mayor’s office ends in June.
NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña accompanied the mayor to Albany and stated that having to plead for mayoral control was an unnecessary diversion from what was most important, which she said was “running the city’s schools,” writes Kate Taylor of The New York Times.
Glenn Blain writes for the New York Daily News that only the Democrat-led Assembly has agreed with de Blasio about the extended control of city schools by the mayor. The GOP-controlled Senate is still undecided.
De Blasio was queried by State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) about the city’s recent teachers union contract and why the union granted lump sum payments along with annual raises.
“Maybe you’re not as fiscally sound as you think you are,” DeFrancisco said.
De Blasio’s answer was that lump sum payments were made as a recompense to union members for the years during which they had no contract.
The lawmakers asked difficult questions, and some continued to be dubious of mayoral control. But the mayor stated:
“There is no viable alternative that has been proven to work as well.”
A ruling will be made on the mayor’s request in the next few weeks.