New York lawmakers adjourned their 2017 session and left the state Capitol Wednesday without a deal to extend Mayor Bill de Blasio's control of New York City schools, dealing the Democratic mayor a major blow and potentially disrupting the governance of the nation's largest school system.
Mayoral oversight of schools, first enacted in 2002, will expire June 30. If the policy lapses, control will revert to a mosaic of local school boards.
While top lawmakers agreed on the benefits of having centralized leadership of city schools, they remain at odds about Republican proposals to link an extension to charter schools. Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan, of Long Island, sought to raise the cap on the number of charters allowed in the city, but Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, of the Bronx, refused to include the charter cap in the negotiations over mayoral control.
"I believe in mayoral control," Flanagan said. "Are we there yet? No. ... If we need to come back to Albany we'll come back."
Heastie, however, dismissed the idea that lawmakers would return.
"I have no intention of coming back," he told reporters after his chamber adjourned shortly before midnight.
The policy lapsed once before, briefly, in 2009, but was reinstated before any significant impact was felt.
If mayoral control goes away for good, control of city schools would revert to a single board of education and many local districts. The city estimates that could create $1.6 billion in added administrative costs over 10 years. Supporters of mayoral control say it has led to higher academic performance and programs such as universal pre-kindergarten.
"If Albany doesn't get this done there's going to be a lot of angry people in the city," de Blasio said on WCBS 880 Wednesday.
The six-month legislative session began in January with big proposals from Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to modernize the state's antiquated voting system and make state college tuition free for middle-class students.
The voting reforms never materialized and Cuomo's college tuition plan was significantly altered. The program will cover the tuition - though not room and board - for in-state students from families earning $125,000 or less. But the students must remain in New York for as many years as they receive the benefit, or else repay the money as a loan.
Other highlights of the session included a major juvenile justice reform that will end the state's practice of prosecuting and incarcerating 16- and 17-year-old offenders as adults.
Lawmakers also voted to increase school funding by $1.1 billion and to permit the ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft to expand into upstate New York and Long Island. The state budget passed in April also included $200 million for prevention, treatment and recovery programs targeted toward heroin and opioid addiction.