who rules the schools

Budget deal could extend mayoral control of New York City schools for one year

PHOTO: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Lawmakers are likely to give Mayor Bill de Blasio another one-year extension of mayoral control, a source confirmed.

The agreement is not yet finalized and was first reported by the Daily News and then Politico New York. With lawmakers still unable to reach a final deal in this year’s topsy-turvey budget process, everything is subject to change.

Short-term control of city schools has now become routine for the mayor, who once hoped to secure a permanent extension but has had only one-year extensions for the past two years. This year, the mayor requested a “multi-year” extension at his legislative hearing in January. The governor suggested three years and the Assembly wanted seven.

But Senate Republicans, who have a longstanding feud with de Blasio, have shown no signs of offering an extension more generous than one year. The annual battle is a political showdown, yet no serious proposals to abolish mayoral control and create a new governing structure for New York City schools have materialized.

Instead, state lawmakers use the provision to criticize de Blasio and question his track record on education. For his part, de Blasio has fired back, accusing state lawmakers of playing politics with the fate of New York City students.

It would be a change of pace if mayoral control is slipped into a budget agreement instead of a final deal at the end of the legislative session, as lawmakers have done in the past. However, the move could help avoid contentious mayoral control hearings — and any subsequent drama — during an election year.

Last year, de Blasio traveled to Albany for a lengthy mayoral control hearing and then skipped the second hearing in New York City. In both cases, his actions drew criticism from lawmakers.

It is anyone’s guess when the state’s budget deal will be finalized. Lawmakers have now blown through their deadline to establish an on-time budget and are operating under a budget extender that runs out May 31, though both the Assembly and Senate have started passing some bills.


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”