As the clock is ticking on the 2022 legislative session, New York City Mayor Eric Adams reiterated his push for state lawmakers to grant him renewed control over the city’s school system. In a press conference on Monday alongside union leaders and schools Chancellor David Banks, Adams insisted that mayoral control will ensure “stability” and eliminate “uncertainty” for students after “two years of trauma” from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beginning in 2002, the state Legislature granted the New York City mayor the power to manage city schools, including the appointment of the schools chancellor and the majority of the 15-member Panel for Educational Policy, or PEP. That mayoral authority expires periodically, including this year, so Adams has to convince state lawmakers it’s worth extending again.
Adams previously pushed for mayoral control to be included in the state budget, something Gov. Kathy Hochul also said she supported, but legislators rejected the request in the final spending plan approved in April. This means state lawmakers must address the ask through legislation by the end of the session on June 2, before mayoral control expires on June 30. Adams initially asked for a three-year extension, and Hochul proposed four years.
Adams said he will visit Albany “in the next few weeks” to make his case directly to legislators and “walk the halls of my former role as a state senator and really encourage them to see the benefits of having the combination of Chancellor Banks and this mayor looking toward controlling our school system.” Expressing optimism about the possibility of extending mayoral control, Adams said, “We are proud to partner with the governor, the speaker, the majority leader. In my conversations with them, they understand how important this is.”
The mayor spoke outside City Hall during a rally that was initially slated for Thursday, but rescheduled when Adams’ flight home from Los Angeles was delayed. Members of several unions, including the Hotel and Motel Trades Council and 32BJ SEIU, were also in attendance. The United Federation of Teachers, which represents nearly 200,000 New York City school employees, did not officially participate in the rally. Adams said Monday he met with UFT President Michael Mulgrew over the weekend, and instructed reporters to direct questions about the union’s stance on mayoral control to the UFT. In a statement to City & State, a union spokesperson said "While we support mayoral control, we have also repeatedly called for more checks and balances and greater parental voice."
Banks also addressed parent involvement in the city school system – a sticking point among advocacy groups who have said that extending mayoral control should only happen if more parents are appointed to the PEP. When mayoral control of schools was granted for the first time to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2002, he shifted governing powers from the city’s 32 individual school boards to the PEP. The oversight panel consists of 15 members, including nine mayoral appointees and five members who are appointed by borough presidents. One member is elected by the city’s parent-run Community Education Councils, something parent-advocacy groups have sought to change. “You cannot have a single parent that’s supposed to represent everybody in the system,” the elected member, Tom Sheppard, recently told CityLimits. Banks said leadership is considering their concerns.
“In the four months that we have been in office, the work that we have been doing at the Department of Education to engage parents has been in direct response to what we have heard from elected officials and from parents themselves who have said they have not felt heard and not felt respected,” Banks said. “No one will be able to say that this mayor and this chancellor did not engage parents. That will not happen.”
Adams also teased a forthcoming plan that he said will allow the community to have more involvement and “allow them to participate in the choosing of our superintendents.
Repeating frequent talking points on the topic, Adams attributed mayoral control to the expansion of pre-K and 3-K, increased graduation rates and the ability to “quickly direct resources to support schools in need.”
With the school year coming to a close, Adams emphasized the importance of summer programs in making his case, specifically mentioning the Summer Rising initiative. The highly sought-after academic and extracurricular program has been opened to all students this year for only the second time, according to Chalkbeat, which reported last week that the 110,000 spots for middle and elementary school students are nearly full. Staffing constraints have reportedly prevented the city from offering additional seats. Using his newly coined term for mayoral control, Adams said “mayoral accountability” will “allow us to bring the most comprehensive and popular program in New York City’s history: Summer Rising.”
Update: This story has been updated with comment from UFT