National Edition

Battle over charter schools in New York pits mayor against governor in political civil war

Published: Monday, March 10 2014 2:22 p.m. MDT

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio center, speaks during a panel discussion about the issues facing the nation's big cities while Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed right, and former Obama advisor and moderator of the discussion David Axlerod look on in Chicago, Thursday, March, 6, 2014. De Blasio is caught in the crossfire from parents and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., over his war on charter schools.

Paul Beaty, Associated Press

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New York's new Mayor Bill de Blasio is in a crossfire over education, having essentially declared war on charter schools during the recent campaign, and he's now facing protesting parents in the streets and a hostile Democratic governor upstate.

But the actions he took, some argue, are not that extreme. In fact, the opponents of charters are angry he did not go further. Part of the problem is that the mayor has a long-standing feud with Eva Moskowitz, the charter school guru behind Success Academy charter schools. Three of her charter schools were rejected by de Blasio last week.

"That de Blasio and Moskowitz are bitter antagonists is not new," New York Magazine noted. "As a candidate, de Blasio used his harshest language to attack her and the Success Academies she's created. Moskowitz wasted no time escalating the battle, staging a pro-charter protest march across the Brooklyn Bridge in October, a month before de Blasio was officially elected mayor."

De Blasio was on MSNBC's Morning Joe Monday defending himself. “What don’t you like about Eva Moskowitz?” he was asked, according to a Mediate report. “That statement seemed very personal.”

“It’s quite substantive, actually,” de Blasio said. “I respect her abilities, and I respect some of what she has achieved with kids. But what I disagree with is going into an existing school and disrupting what that school is trying to do. That process was not handled right by the previous administration. We’re going to reform that process so you can do a co-location the right way.

“We approved five Success Academy schools for co-location in this round — we disagreed with three, we approved of five and by the way, we approved 14 charter schools out of 17 applications,” de Blasio said on Morning Joe, as reported by Mediate.

"Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, standing shoulder to shoulder in Albany with thousands of parents and students who rallied in support of charter schools, vowed on Tuesday to defend the movement and offered a sharply different vision for their place in the educational system than Mayor Bill de Blasio’s," the New York Times reported last week.

“We are here today to tell you that we stand with you,” Cuomo said. “You are not alone. We will save charter schools.”

The mayor lost control of the narrative last week, according to subsequent New York Times analysis, but his decisions were arguably defensible. He approved most of the charters, the Times reported, only rejecting three that had raised specific concerns. Two of these co-located elementary school kids on a high school campus, and one of them was cited for an already overcrowded campus and would have displaced special needs students.

"The previous week, Mr. de Blasio had approved 14 of 17 charter schools for co-location in traditional school buildings, which does not easily suggest that he is conducting a war on charter schools," the Times reported. "And yet this has become the conventional wisdom. Five of the approved schools belong to the high-performing Success Academy network, run by Eva S. Moskowitz, who having led the protesters upstate chose to focus not on her win, but rather on the fact that three of her schools were rejected."

Email: eschulzke@desnews.com

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