New York City Mayor Eric Adams was sworn into office in the middle of Times Square on New Year’s Eve 2021. Although he narrowly squeaked by in the primary, capturing just over 50 percent of the votes in the crowded field of candidates, he won a landslide victory over his Republican opponent in the 2021 election. Adams won over New York voters with a platform of improving public safety, tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and bettering the city’s public schools. And in a March 8 press conference at Bayside High School, the mayor returned to his alma mater to assert that the time he’s been given to control the nation’s largest school system should be extended through 2026.
Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduced mayoral control of schools in 2002, which empowers the mayor to pick the school’s Chancellor along with a majority of the members of the Panel for Educational Policy, which oversees the Department of Education. In its current form, mayoral control expires on June 30. State legislators have until April 1 to decide whether or not they will extend Adams’ control another four years. NY governor, Kathy Hochul, is on board with the idea. She included a four-year extension of mayoral control in her budget in January. “We applaud Governor Hochul for sending a clear and loud message that we need to have mayoral accountability for four years,” Adams said in his speech.
Mayor Adams knows that improving public schools in his city will take a lot of work. But he believes that he and NYC schools Chancellor David Banks are the right people for the job. As black men who are products of the city’s public schools, Adams believes they are uniquely qualified to lead a school system that is largely made up of black and brown students.“The bottom line is if anyone should be in charge of our school system, it should be two school kids from the public school system,” he said. Adams believes that their ability to implement Universal PreK and safely reopen schools during the COVID-19 pandemic help make the case for extending mayoral control.
Banks, who was appointed by Adams in December of 2021, outlined his strategy for improving NYC’s schools in a March 2 speech. His plan includes offering students more relevant and engaging coursework and enhancing school security. He plans to eliminate the executive superintendent role created by his predecessor, Richard Carranza. Banks also wants superintendents in the system to reapply for the jobs, allowing community members to play a role in the selection process.
But not everyone is on board with Adams’ idea. Some parent leaders, state lawmakers, and education activists are against giving Adams control over the city’s schools for the rest of his term. Instead, they’re advocating for giving parents a larger role in the decision-making process. “This issue... does not have actually a fiscal impact, so there are some people who question why this proposal is in the budget itself,” said Democratic Queens Sen. John Liu, leader of the legislature’s Education Committee. Adams clapped back, suggesting that changes to the current PEP selection process would diminish “the power of mayoral accountability.”