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It’s déjà vu all over again as 2016 mayoral control debate enters decisive final weeks

Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office.

If members of the State Assembly had trouble remembering the year on Tuesday, they had a good excuse: They were busy passing the same bill that they signed off on exactly 365 days ago.

The bill, which extends mayoral control of New York City’s schools for three years, again has an uncertain future. Last year, the school governance legislation that has been in place since 2002 got only a one-year extension after the State Senate pushed back against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s education agenda.

So far this year, legislators have seemed less eager to kick the school governance can down the road, going easy on de Blasio during his first appearance in Albany to lobby for continued control. (He asked for seven years.) But John Flanagan, the Senate majority leader, has warned the mayor to expect tougher questions ahead.

The current legislation expires on June 30, and a final deal is likely to come close to that date as part of the broad legislative agreement that emerges from Albany each year. Lawmakers must weigh their desire for stability in the city schools against being able to use school governance as a political bargaining chip in the coming years.

For now, de Blasio and his schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, are ramping up their efforts to shape the conversation. They are scheduled to hold a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday to showcase business leaders’ support for continued control.

While much of the mayoral control debate has been a replay of last year so far, a comparison of the Assembly’s 2015 press release announcing its mayoral control legislation and the one it distributed this week suggests that at least one thing has changed. Cathy Nolan, who chairs the education committee, last year described mayoral control as “still controversial,” alluding to its close association with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who clashed with her and other members of the Democratic-dominated Assembly.

Those words disappeared from her statement this year, in favor of language praising de Blasio’s approach.

“Achievement requires hard work, partnership and creative, needs-based problem-solving which both Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña have demonstrated in their leadership,” Nolan said.

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