New York City mayor to maintain control of biggest U.S. school system

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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

By Riham Alkousaa

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York state lawmakers voted on Thursday to extend by two years New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s control over the country’s largest public school system, which has 1.1 million students.

The New York Legislature faced a Friday deadline for passing the measure or school control would have reverted back to local school boards. Lawmakers had begun their summer vacation last week when Governor Andrew Cuomo summoned them to a special session on the bill.

Before dawn on Thursday, the Assembly passed the school control bill 115 to 15.

Also tied into the voting were deals allowing a three-year extension for local sales taxes and a $55 million flood recovery grant for residents of New York’s Lake Ontario coastline and other infrastructure plans.

The Senate passed the bill at midday on Thursday.

Mayoral control of New York City’s schools began in 2002 to increase accountability. Mayor Michael Bloomberg convinced the legislature to grant him control for seven years and a six-year extension in 2009.

Mayor de Blasio, who is up for reelection in November, has been granted only annual renewals by lawmakers who have used that leverage to strike political deals.

“A two-year extension of mayoral control ensures continuity and stability for New York City’s public school students,” said state Senator Jeff Klein, a Democrat from New York City’s borough of the Bronx.

In the flurry of activity, Cuomo also secured the legislature’s approval to rename the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River in Westchester County after his father, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo.

The deal making irked some lawmakers, including Republican Senator James Tedisco of Glenville, who voted against the bill because he was opposed to renaming the Tappan Zee bridge.

“I am not supporting or voting on this bill to commemorate a governor or assembly men. I will support commemorating a war hero with the work we’re doing today,” Tedisco said.

(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa)

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