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In a surprise flip, Weingarten asks for more in Silver's control bill

After infuriating activists pushing for checks to the mayor’s control of the public schools, teachers union president Randi Weingarten today stood next to them at a press conference in Albany, joining a declaration that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s proposed bill does not give enough voice to parents.

Teachers and principals have unions, but parents do not, Weingarten said, according to someone who attended the press conference. That’s why she said she is calling on lawmakers to write additional voice for parents into a revised mayoral control law.

In making the statement, Weingarten stood beside representatives of the Campaign for Better Schools and the Parent Commission on School Governance, two groups that have called for stronger checks to the mayor’s power than the union ultimately demanded. Members of the Parent Commission on School Governance have criticized Weingarten for giving in to the wishes of Mayor Bloomberg, who has endorsed Silver’s bill.

It was not clear exactly how much of those groups’ positions Weingarten endorsed. At least five Democratic Assembly members also joined the press conference.

UPDATE: A spokesman for Weingarten, Ron Davis, just called to say she is concerned about this story. The spokesman said that Weingarten had “nothing but praise” for Silver’s bill at the press conference, though she did say that she thinks it should be revised to “ensure a greater parental role.”

One of the advocates’ key complaints is that the bill gives the mayor the right to dismiss school board members at his pleasure. The advocates want members to have fixed terms, so that the mayor cannot fire an appointee who votes against him. They are also asking for an assurance that district superintendents will supervise schools in their district. Right now, superintendents are required to work with schools around the city.

A final request is for the new bill to last only two years, rather than six years, before sun-setting. Silver’s bill calls for a six-year gap before sunset.

In recent weeks, Weingarten has angered the fiercest critics of mayoral control, many of whom her union helps support, by changing her position about whether the mayor should appoint a majority of PEP members. Today’s appearance is the first time she has appeared with the critics since May 21, when she revealed her more moderate position about the PEP in a Post column.

Exactly how strongly Weingarten is planning to support the recommendations in the important back-door meetings between advocates and lawmakers remains to be seen. “She’ll present what she’ll present,” Easton said in a phone interview.

Lawmakers who joined the press conference include Assembly members Alan Maisel of Brooklyn, Adam Clayton Powell IV of Manhattan, Linda Rosenthal of Mahattan, William Colton of Brooklyn, and Deborah Glick of Manhattan.

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