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Assembly Democrats are now conferencing on mayoral control

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and his fellow Democratic lawmakers are gathering right now in a private conference to discuss the future of mayoral control of the city’s public schools, an Assembly member just told me. This marks the first time the lawmakers will meet as a group to discuss the subject since private debate and lobbying launched last year.

“I am waiting very anxiously,” Assemblyman Alan Maisel of Brooklyn told me on the telephone just now, as he waited for the topic to shift to school governance. “This is a culmination of like a year and a half of a lot of talk. This needs to be done.”

When Democrats in the state Senate met on the same subject earlier this month, the meeting ended with lines clearly drawn as to which lawmakers favor which kinds of changes. Tonight’s meeting could provide the same kind of insight for the Assembly.

Maisel said that Silver has already been meeting individually with lawmakers to get their opinions, especially lawmakers from New York City. Lawmakers have also been busily entertaining a parade of advocates (including, in Maisel’s case, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein) and meeting with each other.

Maisel said that his own meetings with other lawmakers suggest there is some consensus among Assembly Democrats. One surprise: Maisel said that most Assembly Democrats favor adding at least one of two substantial checks to the mayor’s power: either taking away the power to appoint the schools chancellor or taking away control of a majority of school board members.

“They just don’t want the mayor to have this autocratic control of the schools without any kind of participation from anybody else,” he said.

We first reported that this conference had been scheduled last week.