Critics sharpening their cases against Mayor Bloomberg's handling of the public schools could have a chance to curtail his power as soon as this year.
The law granting the mayor control of the public schools does not sunset until Mr. Bloomberg leaves office in 2009. But some lawmakers in Albany are saying they might begin revising the law one year ahead of schedule.
"The talk is that we want to do something this year," Assemblyman Alan Maisel, a Democrat of Brooklyn, said. "Why wait for the last minute?"
Mr. Maisel said he is introducing a bill that would be the first in a series to check Mr. Bloomberg's power over the schools. He said he does not want to see an end to mayoral control over the schools, but he would like to limit the mayor's power.
The first bill he is introducing would require the Department of Education to hold a public hearing 90 days before shutting down a school. Other revisions would give more power to parents, superintendents, and the City Council in overseeing the Department of Education's budget, interviewing principal candidates, and reviewing policy decisions.
Elected officials, the teachers union, and mayoral candidates also are voicing support for adding "checks and balances" to curtail mayoral control of the public schools, according to transcripts of testimony given to a state commission that is studying the mayor's control of schools.
The New York Sun obtained transcripts of 10 people's testimony to the commission, which is being operated by the office of the city's public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum. Many of those who testified argued that the mayor's power has become authoritarian and should be curtailed.
The head of the United Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, said her goal is to ensure "meaningful institutional involvement or meaningful institutionalized involvement" for "parents, community figures, and indeed the union."
"Education is the community's investment in its own future, and school governance needs to derive from the community's commonly set policies and goals," she said.
The vice chancellor of the Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch, said the mayor's "absolute authority" should be limited. She proposed creating an oversight committee modeled after the Board of Regents or a company's board of trustees that would oversee the Department of Education's budget and policies.
The city comptroller, William Thompson, a former Board of Education president and a 2009 mayoral candidate, said he does not oppose mayoral control ó "I may be in a shrinking group of those who support it," he said. But he said the law must be rewritten to require more fiscal transparency and more involvement from parents.
Opposition to mayoral control may be even stronger in Albany. "There are probably 70 legislators from my latest information who want to get rid of mayoral control, or they're talking that way," a person at one commission hearing is recorded as saying.
The remark was made during testimony by Kathryn Wylde, the president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, a coalition of business groups. But the transcript does not make clear who specifically was speaking.
In her testimony, Ms. Wylde said she sympathizes with some criticisms of the Bloomberg administration, including the idea that communication should be improved and that the results of the mayor's policies need stronger analysis.
But she said overall mayoral control has been a "quantum leap forward" for New York City, inspiring a historic involvement in schools by the business community and preventing a middle-class exodus to the suburbs. She said opening up the law to Albany's intervention could lead to dire results ó including a return to the old system of authority diffused across community school boards.
"That's a horrifying prospect," Ms. Wylde said. "And I would venture to say that if that happened, it would trigger a mass exodus of corporations from New York City."
The chairwoman of the Assembly's education committee, Catherine Nolan, a Democrat of Queens, said last week that she does not know when a reauthorization of the mayoral control law will be considered.