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Paralysis In Albany

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Since the New York State Senate has continued its self -induced paralysis by failing to reach some sort of a short term working arrangement, a number of consequences await the citizens of New York this week: counties may have to raise property taxes because they have no ongoing authority to keep in place their state authorized taxes; New york City may have to lay off up to 16,000 employees to close a huge budget gap because the senate hasn't acted on the City's request for an increase in its sales tax; and, as you may have heard, the city school system may revert to the old regime, the one that produced failing schools and failing students before the legislature authorized mayoral control of the school system 7 years ago.

This last point is hard to fathom since by all the methods of analysis, this experiment in mayoral control is working very well, especially for the students. Test scores are up, the racial divide in education is shrinking, more children are graduating, fewer students are dropping out, school crime is down... so if our legislators really cared about the kids in the public schools, this would be done.

Unfortunately almost a million school children are being held hostage to this game of political chicken. Now if Malcolm Smith was still in charge, mayoral control would happen because he supports it and so do plenty of Republican senators and quite a number of the Democrats, as well.

But in the last few weeks, the Democrats lost control of the floor, and many of them blamed Malcolm and forced him to the side. He is still given public props but he does not control the Democratic conference.

He shares the leaders titles with State Senator John Sampson, from Brooklyn. Senator Sampson is an avowed opponent of continuing mayoral control. In fact, one news report a week ago suggested that even with the data and test scores that show tremendous improvement over the last 7 years, he would rather see it expire than allow the mayor to continue managing the system in the current manner. In this regard, Senator Sampson resembles the Groucho Marx character Quincy Adams Flagstaff in the movie "Horse Feathers". Flagstaff sings:

Whatever It Is, I'm Against it

I don't know what they have to say,
It makes no difference anyway --
Whatever it is, I'm against it!
No matter what it is or who commenced it,
I'm against it.

Your proposition may be good
But let's have one thing understood --
Whatever it is, I'm against it!
And even when you've changed it or condensed it,
I'm against it.

One other group, in addition to the students, has shown significant gains - teachers' salaries have increased by about 43% during the era of mayoral control, and they are in the midst of a new contract negotiation. Under the existing rule, the UFT negotiates with the Mayor.

If we go back to what has been described as the "dysfunctional Board of Education", the UFT will need to negotiate with the Board, not the Mayor. Which raises a question: Where is all that "political muscle" that is always used to describe the United Federation of Teachers?

How many state senators, who are sitting like sheep while 4 or 5 egotistical political players strut and bloviate, would appreciate the UFT, and perhaps some other politically active unions, getting active in their districts, running campaigns against the incumbents? I

I would think this is an ideal time to show us all their muscle and their commitment to the public good. I know the UFT has said that mayoral control is working pretty well; and the Assembly has passed a reauthorizarion bill with some modifications along the lines the union wanted. So, come on teachers
(and health care workers, construction trades) get in the game and put the kind of pressure on these "sitting" senators that we know has worked in the past.

There is an old story that tells of a time when Governor Rockefeller was trying to corral votes for his agenda. One legislator told the governor that there was nothing he wanted and nothing the governor could do for him. In fact, he told the governor there is nothing you can give me. To which Rocky replied, "Oh, yes there is. A primary." Rocky understood politics and it isn't always about what you can do for someone. Sometimes it's what you can do to them.