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City backs away from sweeping contract plan after Liu protests

Protests from Comptroller John Liu have prompted the city to scrap a proposal that would have let it enter into certain contracts without individual approval from the citywide school board.

Since the state legislature voted last summer to extend Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s control over the city schools, the Panel for Educational Policy has been required to approve all contracts worth more than $1 million as well as those that were given without competitive bidding.

Last week, the city quietly announced that it would ask the panel to approve a resolution giving the city “blanket approval” to enter into contracts negotiated by other city agencies. But Liu objected, calling the resolution an “end run” around the panel’s oversight authority over the Department of Education. Liu also pointed out that while the resolution was listed on the agenda for tonight’s panel meeting, text of the resolution was not posted to the Department of Education’s website.

This morning, the city removed the resolution from tonight’s agenda. If the resolution had remained on the agenda, it likely would have passed; the panel is controlled by a majority of mayoral appointees, and has never defeated an item proposed by the city.