Gov. Hochul proposes four-year extension of mayoral control of NYC schools, a big ask by Mayor Adams

NEW YORK — Gov. Hochul on Tuesday proposed extending mayoral control of the city’s public schools by four years, throwing her support behind one of the Adams administration’s top priorities for this legislative session.

But such a renewal, included in the governor’s executive budget, is expected to face strong headwinds from lawmakers and preempted a state review of school governance coming in the early spring.

“I once again support New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ request to continue mayoral accountability for the school system for another four years,” Hochul said during her budget address in Albany.

Last time mayoral control was renewed, in 2022, Adams was granted power over the schools for only two years with new caveats, a decision he saw as a slap in the face.

The state Education Department was tasked with studying school governance through public hearings and a review of two decades of mayoral control and other public school systems, such as in Chicago or Boston, where the model is falling out of favor. Lawmakers also expanded the Panel for Educational Policy, the city’s school board with most members selected by Adams, to include more parent representatives but added mayoral appointees to balance out their votes.

The report is coming at the end of March — and while it does not include recommendations, it was expected to inform lawmakers’ decision-making on extending mayoral control.

“It’s premature and not logical,” State Sen. John Liu (D-Queens), chair of the New York City Education Committee, said of the governor’s Tuesday proposal, which he added does not have a fiscal impact.

“We don’t begrudge the fact that she wants to work closely with Mayor Adams, but this is a big issue,” he said. “It’s a weighty decision that falls on the state. And we are awaiting the completion of the SED [State Education Department] study on school governance.”

Many of the speakers who are choosing to attend the hearings have no longer been content with the status quo. At three sessions so far, out of a total of five across all boroughs, frustrated teachers and parents have questioned its effectiveness and pushed for models that offer more checks and balances on the mayor’s unilateral power over the public schools.

“We hope to have the findings and that will go to the Governor and the legislature,” State Education Department Commissioner Betty Rosa told reporters at one of those hearings last week, in Brooklyn. “And then it’s their work after that.”

If not extended, mayoral control would expire at the end of June. The model of school governance has been extended several times over the last two decades under former mayors Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio.

“We sense a real productivity in the Department of Education,” Adams told reporters earlier this month. “Everything from giving our children quality food to what we’ve done with Summer Rising to the test scores outpacing the state. So we’re seeing some real W’s (wins). I think give us the opportunity to continue, like we gave to other mayors.”

Hochul’s show of support for Adams on Tuesday came alongside several other favorable budget proposals to the administration, including most notably state aid for the city’s migrant-related costs.

The governor also recommended a 2.4% increase in state aid for schools to $35.3 billion, a record high in New York history. Some lawmakers and advocates are pushing for a larger boost to cover the current rate of inflation and help buoy some programs funded by federal pandemic aid that will expire by next school year.