As the slugfest over paying for pre-kindergarten moves into the late rounds with a deal seemingly in reach, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appeared to shift attention to his next battleground with the mayor of his state’s largest city: charter schools.
The pivot comes two weeks before the state budget is due and a day after the state Senate tentatively authorized giving New York City the money needed to launch pre-kindergarten, though not the tax hike on the rich Mayor Bill de Blasio said he needed to pay for it. Cuomo, a Democrat, suddenly seized upon the importance of the privately run but publicly funded charter schools after de Blasio ruled last month that three of them would lose their spaces in public school buildings.
“Co-location is a decision that is basically left up to mayors,” Cuomo said Friday after a budget speech in Manhattan. “If a mayor says, ‘You can’t co-locate and I’m not giving you any funding to go anywhere else,’ you could de facto put charter schools out of business, you could de facto stop the charter movement.”
“And we don’t want that to happen in any city,” Cuomo said. “And the state law would have to address that.”
Cuomo is up for re-election this fall and has positioned himself to the right of the liberal de Blasio on several issues to appeal to conservative voters upstate and moderates in New York City’s suburbs.
He has suddenly remade himself as a champion for charters, many of which are backed by moneyed interests, including hedge fund managers. Earlier this month, Cuomo appeared at a rally in Albany to protest the evictions of the three schools, all of which are run by de Blasio’s longtime political rival Eva Moskowitz.
And he told the crowd at the Association for a Better New York, a group of business leaders, on Friday that he hopes for more state authority over charter schools, which could undermine some mayoral control of the city school system. The specifics of the proposed state law have not been determined.
De Blasio’s advisers pointed out that the mayor upheld the co-locations for 14 of the 17 charters approved in the final days of his predecessor Michael Bloomberg’s administration. De Blasio has vowed to change the co-location process, opening it up for more public input.
“This administration believes firmly that charter schools are an important part of this education system,” Deputy Mayor Richard Buery said Friday. “Three charter schools weren’t co-located, while the vast majority of schools were put through. It’s a little bit of a red herring. I’m not sure what the argument is.”