New York Post
May 20, 2009
A rousing round of applause for Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, who is showing early signs of leader ship in the mayoral-control fight.
Smith has always said he supports renewing City Hall's authority over Gotham's public schools when it expires in June. Now, happily, he has offered a plan that seems to keep it in essentially its current form.
Unlike pols who pay lip service to the system's success while backing changes in the current law that would in fact gut it, Smith would leave the schools' policy-making board directly accountable to the mayor.
Good for Smith -- especially since his plan has stirred the ire of some of the most odious members of his conference.
Sens. Carl Kruger (Brooklyn), Ruben Diaz (Bronx) and Hiram Monserrate (Queens) -- three charter members of the "Gang of Four," which withheld support from Smith in December for plum cash payouts -- reportedly huffed out of the meeting where Smith unveiled his plan.
Expect their opposition to mayoral control to be equally, er, "principled."
Meanwhile, Harlem Sen. Bill Perkins, who's also ripped mayoral control, has had to turn a blind eye to the educational revolution Mayor Bloomberg's reforms are sparking in his district.
(And the progress, citywide, continues apace: The Post's Carl Campanile reported yesterday that some of the most impressive student test gains have come in the city's long-troubled middle schools.)
Such holdouts, of course, typically exercise considerable sway in the sharply divided Senate. But this time, Smith can likely count on heavy Republican support for renewal.
Of course, one needs to pay close attention to the fine print in Smith's plan, which has yet to be turned into a bill. One potentially worrisome "tweak" would give added power to regional superintendents -- long the prime patronage conduit under the pre-mayoral-control system.
And, naturally, nothing happens without the agreement of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver -- who says he supports modified mayoral control, the devil residing in the modifications.
Still, give Smith credit for staking out a concrete position that preserves the current system in its essentials.
The debate begins in earnest next week, and it'll be off on a positive note.