Win for NYC Mayor Adams as lawmakers agree to extend mayoral control of NYC schools

NEW YORK — State lawmakers late Friday were poised to hand a victory to Mayor Eric Adams as they agreed to extend his control of the New York City public schools by two years, with some adjustments to how the nation’s largest school district is governed.

The deal includes slight changes to the city’s Panel for Educational Policy that will somewhat dilute the mayor’s authority, according to State Sen. John Liu, a Democrat and chair of the New York City Education Committee.

In a recent report on mayoral control, parents and teachers complained they felt excluded from decision-making under the current system. The panel approves contracts, votes on school moves and closures, and hears public feedback on divisive education issues.

The extension offers concessions to the local teachers union, which had been pushing for checks on the mayor’s power. It also extends the mayor’s authority for two years; Gov. Kathy Hochul had been seeking four.

The agreement will be included in the state budget, which was being finalized late Friday, Liu said.

“I want stability in the city,” Hochul said as she briefed reporters Friday morning in Manhattan. “I want parents and children and teachers to know that the governance mechanism that’s been in place for many, many years will not be politicized. It will not be a political football for the next few months.”

She suggested the extension reflected confidence in city Schools Chancellor David Banks, who she said had “been very engaged with the legislators.”

Albany watchers had expected the issue of mayoral control to be taken up after the state budget was enacted. But a last-minute push by Hochul to include the measure in negotiations this week delivered a win for Adams, who along with the chancellor had been lobbying for an extension.

The state Senate, Assembly and Education Department Board of Regents will provide a list of nominees to chair the PEP, with the mayor required to choose among them. If the mayor does not approve of the options, he can request two more names from the Legislature.

Currently, 13 out of the panel’s 23 members are unilaterally appointed by the mayor, giving City Hall substantial power to push through its directives compared to other cities, a recent study of mayoral control found. Other members are picked by the borough presidents and the heads of local education councils.

The new PEP chair will expand the panel to 24 members.

“I’m happy that the mayor is willing to be accountable,” said Sen. Liu. “He wants mayoral accountability. So we must keep him accountable.”

The renewal also includes a new requirement that will prohibit the city from reducing its share of funding for public schools.

The measure comes after a lawsuit, brought by the United Federation of Teachers in December, sought to undo Adams’ budget cuts this year. The mayor said the cuts were necessary to cover the costs of sheltering migrants. The union’s lawyers accused the city of using record-high state education aid to supplant its own spending on local schools.

Another condition of the deal is the city must bolster its plans for school construction to comply with the state’s class size law, which passed alongside the last extension of mayoral control in 2022.

The UFT has cast doubt the Adams administration intends to comply with the regulation, which education officials say they will follow. The city is currently in a five-year phase-in period during which classrooms must be reduced to between 20 and 25 students, depending on grade level.