Control of biggest U.S. school system weighed by New York lawmakers

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New York City Mayor de Blasio speaks to guests during the Museum's annual Memorial Day commemoration ceremony in New York

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York state lawmakers returned to the legislature on Wednesday for a special session to consider granting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio a one-year extension to control the city’s public school system, the largest in the United States.

Unless the New York State Legislature acts, control of the education system that serves 1.1 million students reverts on Friday to the state’s Board of Education.

Governor Andrew Cuomo called vacationing lawmakers back to the statehouse in Albany a week after they adjourned their regular 2017 session.

Mayoral control of city schools was started by de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, who convinced the legislature to grant him leadership for seven years in 2002, and a six-year extension in 2009. De Blasio has been granted only annual renewals by lawmakers who have used that leverage for political horsetrading.

“Since (Bloomberg) achieved mayoral control of education, our graduation rate has gone up almost 50 percent in 15 years – 50 percent!” de Blasio said on WCBS Radio on Wednesday.

“That should be enough for everyone to agree this is the way to run our schools,” de Blasio said.

Previously, schools were run by 32 local school boards “with no accountability,” the mayor said. “Unfortunately it was a time characterized by chaos and corruption.”

Opinion polls over the last three years showed voters do not want mayoral control of schools, with a 2017 Quinnipiac University poll showing voters opposed 68 percent to 21 percent.

While most U.S. school districts are run by elected boards, cities with mayoral control include Chicago, Boston and Washington.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; editing by Grant McCool)

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