- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A special legislative session called by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resolve a stalemate over control of public education in New York City got off to a sluggish start Wednesday as lawmakers compiled a long wish-list of other issues they’d like to see addressed.

Meanwhile, the state law giving Mayor Bill de Blasio control of his city’s schools will expire Friday if lawmakers don’t act, potentially disrupting the governance of the nation’s largest school system. Lawmakers ended their regular session last week with no deal to renew the 15-year-old policy.

Cuomo, a Democrat, ordered lawmakers back to work on Wednesday, but any hopes for a quick resolution were soon dashed when no agreement on the city schools emerged.

As the day went on more items were added to the negotiations, including emergency funding for the city’s troubled subway system and aid for upstate residents affected by recent flooding. Other lawmakers were pushing for help for a struggling upstate harness racetrack and casino, additional speed cameras for New York City, the extension of county sales taxes or naming the new Tappan Zee Bridge after the late Gov. Mario Cuomo, the current governor’s father.

Lawmakers unhappy about being dragged back to Albany to wait as Cuomo and top lawmakers negotiate behind closed doors vented their displeasure.

“One would think things in Albany couldn’t get more chaotic or dysfunctional, yet it always seems to get worse,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers. “We once again are forced to return to the Capitol and sit around with no clear answers.”

Lawmakers hope to wrap up their work before the July Fourth holiday weekend. Several different ideas emerged Wednesday, ranging from a straightforward two-year extension of mayoral control, and a short, two-week extension to buy lawmakers more time.

Top lawmakers from both parties agree on the benefits of the policy, but they’re at odds over the details. Senate Republicans had wanted to tie an extension to the authorization of more charter schools. Assembly Democrats balked at that idea, but tried to link the extension to the renewal of local sales taxes, a move that irked Senate Republicans.

On Wednesday Klein said charter schools were dropped from the negotiations. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, declined to go into specifics about the discussions.

“We’re still talking,” Heastie told reporters huddled outside of Cuomo’s office. “We want to try to make everybody in the world happy.”

If the policy does expire, control of city schools would revert to a single board of education and dozens of community school boards. 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.

“No one I know - not even the Senate Republicans - disagree with the concept of mayoral control,” de Blasio, a Democrat, said on WCBS 880 radio Wednesday. “So I think the governor’s done the right thing to say ‘come back, let’s get this done.’”

Mayoral control lapsed once before - briefly - in 2009. Lawmakers reinstated the policy before any significant impact was felt. Last year lawmakers voted to renew the policy for a single year.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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