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Mayoral Control Of Schools Debate Comes Down To Wire In Albany

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- It's down to the wire, with just one day left to settle a crisis that could throw the New York City school system into chaos.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the New York State Legislature remained deadlocked over extending mayoral control of schools as of Thursday, as the powerful head of the state Senate attacked Mayor Bill de Blasio's stewardship an gave him a mediocre "C" grade.

With the legislative session in its final hours in Albany, lobbyists packed the hallways.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña was tasked with the tough job of convincing lawmakers to give her boss, Mayor de Blasio, an extension of mayoral control of city schools.

"I remember the time you could almost buy a principalship; you could certainly buy a superintendentship," Fariña said, "and I think that one of the things we've done particularly well is to take politics and patronage out of the education."

Fariña told Kramer that hers is a school system that puts kids first. But she is up against a formidable opponent – Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown), who insists that any extension be tied to an increase in charter schools.

Flanagan said Mayor de Blasio is not particularly enthusiastic about the idea.

"Charter schools are public schools. I believe in charter schools," he said.

Flanagan is frank in his assessment of the mayor's commitment to charters, where in New York City, there is currently a waiting list of more than 50,000 students.

Kramer asked Flanagan if he thinks de Blasio is openly hostile to charters.

"Absolutely – not even close. Just look at colocation – his administration has basically turned down every application," Flanagan said. "I feel like they treat charter schools as if they're some type of, you know, the quintessential red-headed stepchild."

Asked to assess de Blasio's success, Flanagan gave him a grade of "C."

"Management style and oversight, looking at how many people have been hired – administrators," Flanagan said. "What has it proven now to be worth?"

Charter schools are the sticking point. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) said he will not budge on increasing the cap allowing more charters.

"We don't feel that that's necessary," Heastie said.

Right now, both sides are dug in. A compromise would be to give the mayor one year with no strings attached, but it is anyone's guess whether that will happen.

In another development in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced legislation to give himself undisputed control of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board. The governor wants an increase to nine vote son the board, so the city and suburban counties cannot get together and overrule him on how to run subways and trains.

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