compromising control

Cuomo’s three-year mayoral control extension gains steam with Assembly support

PHOTO: Geoff Decker
Speaker Carl Heastie on the Assembly floor.

Assembly leaders have agreed to support a three-year extension of mayoral control for New York City schools, offering a proposal Thursday that does not include any other changes to the city’s governance structure.

The proposal, which emerged after a closed-door meeting among Democrats in the Assembly on Tuesday, is a mixed bag for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who would get a shorter extension than he hoped but would avoid other tweaks that could diminish his power. The new expiration date for mayoral control would move to June 30, 2018 under the Assembly’s bill, which was sponsored by Speaker Carl Heastie, education committee chair Catherine Nolan, and Richard Gottfried.

The move signals that the city’s school governance, one of several education questions still facing lawmakers this legislative session, could be among the first to get settled. The three-year extension matches Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal and drew praise from the de Blasio administration, a close ally to the Assembly. (The Assembly originally proposed a seven-year extension.)

Senate Republicans, who will need to sign off on the agreement, have stayed mum on the issue for most of the legislative session. That changed this week when new conference leader John Flanagan said he would support a mayoral control extension without specifying for how long.

Matthew Titone, an assemblyman from Staten Island, said keeping the law the same could avoid contentious negotiations at a time when both houses of the legislature have other priorities.

“It’s already in place,” said Titone, referring to the framework of mayoral control. “There’s nothing new.”

Mayoral control has been in place since 2002, but will expire in June unless state legislators reauthorize the law that dismantled the city’s 32 local school boards. Under the centralized system, the mayor was given the power to choose the schools chancellor, oversee the system’s $26 billion education budget, and set policies for the city’s 1,600 district schools. The law also created the Panel for Educational Policy, which signs off on many changes but is controlled by the mayor.

The law briefly expired in 2009, in part because lawmakers were haggling over small changes. Assembly Democrats said they did not want to open up the law to detailed negotiations this time to avoid a repeat of the confusion that followed, which included a short reappearance of the Board of Education and weeks of legal ambiguity.

The trade-off for de Blasio is a shorter renewal period than the one his predecessor received when lawmakers finally reached a deal on mayoral control six years ago. Titone said it allowed for a timely review of de Blasio’s program to improve struggling schools, which ends in 2017.

Earlier this year, de Blasio was so concerned about the status of mayoral control that he made it the primary focus of his lobbying efforts in Albany. The mayor asked legislators to make mayoral control permanent, saying that would ensure the stability of a system that had been proven to raise the achievement of city students. But his administration’s legislative priorities have since shifted to eliminating real estate tax breaks, something prolonged negotiations over mayoral control could distract from.

“We’re appreciative that both the Governor and the Assembly Democratic conference have registered their intent to see Mayoral Control extended,” city spokesman Wiley Norvell said, adding that the city believes that it should be extended permanently.

The Assembly’s proposal is likely to frustrate some advocates who believed the mayor has too much unchecked power over education policy. At forums held by Public Advocate Letitia James earlier this year, some raised the ideas of giving the city’s 32 Community Education Councils the ability to nix plans for schools to share space, taking contract oversight duties away from the Panel for Educational Policy, and putting more members on the panel who are independent of de Blasio.

James has yet to release policy recommendations from those forums, although a spokeswoman said they would be released next week. In a statement, James said “provisions that expand parental and community involvement,” but did not offer any specifics.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”