Leonie Haimson watched five hours of a legislative hearing about mayoral control of the NYC public schools. She writes that it was “the best ever” because legislators asked tough questions and did not accept the party line from the Chancellor, who was appointed by the new mayor Eric Adams, who naturally wants mayoral control. Governor Kathy Hochul has proposed a four-year extension of mayoral control.

When Michael Bloomberg was elected in 2001, he said he would take control of the schools and fix everything. The legislature gave him what he wanted.

Mayoral control was passed by the legislature in 2002, at Bloomberg’s request.

NYC has had mayoral control for 20 years, and its problems remain critical. Thus, legislators were in no mood to hear rosy promises.

Haimson wrote:

I’ve testified at countless mayoral control hearings since it was instituted nearly 20 years ago. Yesterday’s joint Senate and Assembly hearings far surpassed any of them. You can watch the video here. Sorry to say there were very few news stories about it, because most of the education reporters were covering the Mayor’s announcement about lifting the mask mandate in schools. It was their loss, since the questioning by legislators was sharp and had a new seriousness about it, and the testimony from parent leaders was passionate and incisive.

In recent years, the opposition to Mayoral control has grown, here in the city and nationwide. As I point out in my testimony, the system has never been popular among average voters. But the evident dysfunctionality of the system and the way it allows autocracy to override the wishes of parents and the needs of children, no matter who is Mayor, is now more widely recognized. Many districts such as Detroit and Newark that once suffered under mayoral control or worse, state control, have returned to an elected school, and Chicago will soon do so.

This was the first time in my experience that influential legislators seem really intent about making improvements to the law. Sen. John Liu, chair of the NYC Education Senate committee, and Sen. Shelley Mayer, chair of the NY State Senate Education Committee, along with Assemblymembers Harvey Epstein and Jo Anne Simon, closely questioned Chancellor Banks about what changes could be made that would ensure that parents have a real voice in the system. Yet he seemed strangely unprepared for their pointed questions.

Chancellor Banks had the chutzpah to claim that the new mayor and he had brought down the COVID positivity rate. Supermen. The legislators weren’t buying it.

Another problem that both Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks encountered is a glaring contradiction in their rhetoric . Both repeated their now-familiar refrain about how terrible our schools are, especially for Black and brown kids. But of course, if true, this failure persists after twenty years of mayoral control – the very system that they claim is necessary to solve the problem.