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Stringer: City should plan for “Armageddon” schools situation

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is asking his office to craft a contingency plan for what he called an “Armageddon” scenario: the possibility that state lawmakers will not renew or revise the 2002 mayoral control law by June 30, its expiration date. In an interview with me this afternoon, Stringer urged Mayor Bloomberg to do the same thing.

“Normally, I would not take seriously this notion that the legislature would not finish mayoral control, do the sales tax, whatever,” Stringer told me today in a telephone interview. “But that’s before the thug and crook took control of the Senate.”

Stringer, himself a former Assemblyman, said that he is concerned that the Senate will not be in a position to take a vote on a renewed mayoral control law by June 30, the day the 2002 law expires. That would set the city’s legal clock back to the pre-2002 days when a citywide school board had the power to appoint — and get rid of — a schools chancellor.

Mayor Bloomberg has said that letting mayoral control expire would cause “riots in the streets.” Asked today whether he is preparing for that scenario, Bloomberg told reporters he’d rather not think about it. “It would be a nightmare, but I just cannot conceive of it happening. And we shouldn’t waste a lot of time preparing for it,” Bloomberg said. “This will get done. The public will not stand for this not getting done.”

Governor Paterson has said he’ll call a special session of the Senate with mayoral control on the agenda, which would force senators to convene. But there’s nothing the governor or anyone can do to force senators to take a vote once they arrive.

Stringer said he called me today because he believes the public should reckon with the possibility that the lawmakers won’t take a vote. “If these clowns don’t figure out how to have a vote, then you won’t have mayoral control, which necessitates the mayor, the borough president, and others to start having a contingency plan,” Stringer said.

I discussed mayoral control’s prospects this morning on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, with guest-host (and fellow education reporter) Beth Fertig. I told Beth that there seem to be two options: Either the Senate passes a copy of the Assembly’s mayoral control bill, which Mayor Bloomberg supports, or both the Assembly and the Senate pass a bill extending the current law for a few months. Then they’d give themselves some time to come up with a change they can agree on.

Both options, however, presume that the Senate actually gets together and has a vote before June 30. And that, as Stringer points out, isn’t a bet I’d like to make.