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A mayoral control deal; next step, get senators on board

The Bloomberg administration and Senate Democrats reached a tentative deal on school governance last night, with the mayor agreeing to some extra oversight of police in schools, a $1.6 million parent training center, and a new citywide panel on arts education, sources familiar with the deal confirmed this morning. The deal would also require the city to add a new factor in superintendents’ reviews of principals: the quality of instruction and curriculum.

Hashed out by Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott and the two top Senate Democrats, Malcolm Smith and John Sampson, the agreement is several steps away from being finalized. The rest of the Senate’s Democratic conference will have to sign onto the agreement — and so will the state Assembly. Even more difficult, for the deal to become law before the next school year, both houses of the legislature will have to return to Albany this summer to pass legislation.

The Assembly already passed a bill renewing mayoral control of the public schools, with some tweaks, before the end of its regular session. The bill enjoyed the support of the Bloomberg administration, but senate Democrats, once they solidified their thin majority, pushed back against signing onto an identical copy. They pushed for extra tweaks including a way to guarantee parent involvement in the public schools.

At the heart of last night’s deal is the parent training center, which, according to the deal, will be housed at CUNY. Even this decision has not been without controversy. Initially, senators advocated for the center to be lodged at NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, but the mayor and schools chancellor Klein objected, centering their concerns on a retired scholar, Debbie Meier, who has criticized Bloomberg’s education policies and has office at the Center.

The Center’s director, Pedro Noguera, said he wasn’t sure if Meier was the real reason the parent training center is going to CUNY. “NYU didn’t like being in the middle of a controversy,” Noguera said, adding that high-level administrators at the University were “all very sensitive about alienating the mayor.”

As for why Klein and Bloomberg opposed the placement: “I think they might be scared of a center in a place they feel they can’t control,” Noguera said. Bloomberg administration sources have said that CUNY was chosen because senators wanted a center with arms in all five boroughs.

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