ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling New York lawmakers back to Albany on Wednesday to try again to reach a deal extending Mayor Bill de Blasio's control of New York City schools — though some legislators are demanding that the Democratic governor add help for the city's troubled subway system to the agenda.
Lawmakers ended their regular session last week without a deal to extend the law giving the mayor oversight of city schools. The 15-year-old policy expires Friday if lawmakers don't act, threatening to undermine governance of the nation's largest school system.
A growing number of lawmakers also want to use the special session to pass emergency funding for the city's troubled subway system, after another subway train derailed near Harlem on Tuesday, frightening passengers and prompting evacuations and power failures. But due to the arcane rules governing special sessions, the Democratic governor gets to set the agenda and so far he is not including the subways.
"New Yorkers are suffering the consequences of years of underfunding and mismanaging of our mass transit system," said Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, who said lawmakers shouldn't leave Albany until they've addressed subways. "It would be irresponsible for state leaders to allow this to continue without finding a solution and that is what we should do with the urgency this crisis demands."
Mayoral control, however, may take precedence on Wednesday. Cuomo called it a "dereliction of duty" for lawmakers to adjourn last week without voting to extend the policy, first enacted under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Top lawmakers from both parties agree on the benefits of mayoral control, yet they couldn't agree on an extension. Senate Republicans wanted to tie an extension to the authorization of more charter schools. Assembly Democrats balked at that idea but tried to link the extension to the renewal of local sales taxes, a move that irked Senate Republicans. In the end, the Assembly and Senate each passed their own legislation to extend the policy, but did not take up the other chamber's version.
If the policy does expire, control of city schools would revert to a single board of education and dozens of community school boards. The city estimates that could create $1.6 billion in added administrative costs over 10 years. Supporters of mayoral control say it has led to higher academic performance and programs such as universal pre-kindergarten.