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In State Senate, no support from majority leader for mayoral takeover of Buffalo Public Schools

ALBANY – The Assembly sponsor of legislation that would turn over control of Buffalo’s public schools to the mayor met with the State Senate’s top Republican, but came away with no deals as the 2015 session rushes to a close in the coming weeks.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes met for nearly a half hour Thursday with Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan about her push to give Mayor Byron W. Brown control over the city school system.

“The senator was very gracious. He did not make a commitment,’’ Peoples-Stokes said Friday of the meeting.

Her proposal cannot get passed without the OK from Flanagan, who ultimately controls what legislation hits the Senate floor. With just 10 days left in the 2015 legislative session, the mayoral control bill does not yet have any backers from Republican majority members in the Senate.

In fact, beyond Peoples-Stokes, the plan is having difficulty attracting backers from the Democratic majority members from Western New York in the Assembly. It does have the backing of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the mayor, but neither has expended political capital in public to push the idea.

Peoples-Stokes said she is dipping into her Assembly campaign account to pay for radio ads starting this weekend in Buffalo featuring a couple of parents talking about the need for the bill.

“I’m not ready to accept a ‘no’ at this point,” Peoples-Stokes said of the legislative push.

The effort, however, has a large number of critics, including Peoples-Stokes’ fellow Democrats from Western New York, Buffalo School Board members, the state association of school boards and the teachers union.

In the meeting Thursday with Flanagan, Peoples-Stokes did most of the talking, participants said. Flanagan asked several questions, including about the teachers’ contract in Buffalo.

“It was fairly brief. It was more Crystal trying to make a case directly to Sen. Flanagan why she felt her bill was the appropriate way to go … There was no new ground broken,” said Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, who attended the meeting with Flanagan, Peoples-Stokes and Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst.

At the end, the Senate Republicans made no promises. “There was not a specific ask by anybody and no commitment was made, other than we would talk about it,” Gallivan said.

A spokesman for Flanagan declined to comment.

The meeting with Peoples-Stokes was notable because it included no one from the Brown administration. A day earlier, Flanagan met personally with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was at the Capitol pressing for passage of several bills, including extension of the existing statute that gives him control over that city’s massive public school system.