Mayoral control is law; one tweak and no mention of class size bill 1

Mayor Adams has been granted a two-year extension of control of public schools thanks to Gov. Hochul signing it into law late Thursday night. Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks, at right with Adams making an unrelated schools announcement, have been lobbying for the extension for months.

Gov. Hochul signed mayoral control into law in quite literally the 11th hour as it was set to expire at midnight. 

It grants the expected two-year extension of public schools control to Mayor Adams but includes a tweak: The legislation pushes off the expansion of the Panel for Educational Policy, which serves as the governing body of the Department of Education, until January of 2023. 

The PEP is set to be expanded from 15 members to 23, a change that would have come into effect in August and one that some say would “dilute” Adams’ ability to legitimately control the schools, not to mention the added layers of bureaucracy and potential to drag the notoriously long monthly meetings later into the night and early mornings.

“The time frame was really, really tight,” said Yiatin Chu, a Whitestone resident and co-founder of the group Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum and Education.   

“One of the reasons we were so outraged was how they were trying to ram it through. Within 72 hours it was signed by the Assembly and the Senate. There was literally no time for us to look at it, to try to engage with our local electeds or anyone, really,” she said.

“I think with such a drastic change of structure, to delay is the right thing … It is time for all the groups to have their voices heard,” said Chu, whose group has been rallying about the issues since the package of bills came out around Memorial Day.

The mayoral control bill was coupled with one to reduce class sizes, an issue that has divided many and is strongly supported by the teachers union.

“It's not that we don't want a smaller class size, it's just, what is going to be the cost to get to those smaller class sizes?” said Chu, who fears it could lead to reductions in specialized and accelerated programs.

She notes that the class size aspect does not seem to be as urgent as the mayoral control bill as it has not been called to the governor’s desk yet.

Some parents felt the two shouldn’t be grouped together since they are unrelated.

“They are two separate bills, but they kind of position it as one to seize on the urgency, and I think the fact that it is now divorced for sure because of this hurts a momentum,” said Chu of the smaller class size proponents. 

Jean Hahn, a Rego Park parent and head of the group Queens Parents United, also agrees with smaller class sizes in theory but thinks other matters should be addressed by the DOE.

“We do want class sizes to matter, they should matter … but at the same time, we've got significant learning loss to deal with. And I really think that that needs to be addressed first,” she said. 

Hahn continued, “I really think the sound of it, on a superficial level, sounds great. But I think it just needs to be more thought out. Why were they being delivered as a package? One has nothing to do with the other one.”

She, too, supports the mayoral control extension and potential PEP restructuring.

“I'm good with her signing off on mayoral control because I am somebody that elected the mayor for that reason … to have that authority to turn the schools around and not have it stripped away from him by bloating the PEP.”

In a statement, Adams celebrated the signing into law of what he and Schools Chancellor David Banks have referred to as “mayoral accountability.”

“Mayoral accountability is vitally important to New York City families, students, teachers, and the entire school community,” his statement read. 

“I want to thank Governor Hochul for championing on behalf of our students and allowing me and Chancellor Banks to keep the politics out of our schools to provide bold and necessary programs for the betterment of our children. We will continue to wage this fight on behalf of our city’s children. The nearly one million students and their families deserve an education system free from bureaucracy and one that allots them the certainty they deserve — particularly after the trauma they’ve experienced over the past two years. We will continue to partner with the community to provide historic investments in our education department and change the way we approach learning in New York City.”

Many do not agree that politics were kept out of the decision, as the mayor stated, however.

The group Parents for Responsive Equitable and Safe Schools tweeted directly at Gov. Hochul, “We see you playing politics with our children's education, and we will not forget.”

Adams had been lobbying for mayoral control of schools, which seemed to be in jeopardy for some time, likely up until the last minute passage of the bill.

Chu, too, wondered if Adams’ last minute endorsement of the governor in Tuesday’s primary, although not needed given her landslide victory, played a part.

State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Jackson Heights) has rallied in support of the bill to reduce class sizes.

“New York City’s parents are sick of our children’s education being used as a political bargaining chip,” she said in a prepared statement. 

“We passed the class size legislation with a considerable bipartisan margin, and this week thirty-eight elected officials from Congress, the state, and the city, as well as over 7700 petition signatories have urged the Governor to sign the bill as soon as possible. There was no such groundswell for the renewal of Mayoral control. Signing it into law would be such an easy win for the Governor. The last-minute, late-night negotiations have become a pattern in this administration’s first term, and it is hurting our children,” she said.