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A state of frenzy with 10 days left before mayor’s control expires

There are 10 days to go before mayoral control expires and one day left of the legislative session. Given the standstill at the state Senate, that equation is leaving both supporters and opponents of the mayoral control in a state of high alarm.

Invariably, their panic is fueled by the complete unpredictability of the situation. No one has the answers to questions about what would happen if the Senate allowed the 2002 law to sunset, as State Senator John Sampson has threatened to allow.

“If everybody goes home for the summer we’ve got 32 school boards on July 1. Mayoral control is over. The clock is ticking and it doesn’t seem like anybody’s doing anything,” said Joe Williams, the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, which favors preserving mayoral control.

Should the Senate pull itself together and reconvene, either by choice or by force, before the law expires, it remains unclear what kind of bill it will support. A bill has already passed the Assembly, but Sampson and other Democrats have said they want to amend that to add stricter checks to the mayor’s power.

Advocates for those checks are operating under the assumption that change is still possible.

“The battle is not over!” Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters and a member of the Parent Commission on School Governance, declared in an e-mail to various groups that oppose mayoral control, urging people to call and e-mail Democratic state senators.

A policy director at New York Charter Schools Association, Peter Murphy, said it’s “hard to predict” whether it’s too late to amend the Assembly’s bill.

Even if Republicans and Democrats can reach a power-sharing agreement in the next 10 days, the Assembly may already have wrapped up its business and gone home. Any changes to the bill would require subsequent approval by the Assembly.

“The Assembly would be hard-pressed to come back because the Senate decided they would like to do something different,” Murphy said. “The Assembly has largely settled the issue by passing a very reasonable bill that the Senate should just pass and be done with it.”

As the days go by, not knowing who’s in charge is making lobbyists and advocates frantic.

“Literally it is so screwed up on the Senate side,” Williams said. “It’s like you’ve got 100 marbles and you’re trying to throw them up in the air and guess what the shape is going to look like.”