It was a tale of two rallies.
In another round of the political chess between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, Mr. Cuomo spoke today at a rally framed by Mr. de Blasio and his supporters as an attempt to undermine the mayor’s education agenda.
Mr. Cuomo’s rally, held by pro-charter school advocates who have felt under attack by Mr. de Blasio, occurred at roughly the same time as a competing rally in Albany held by Mr. de Blasio, which aimed to push Mr. Cuomo and legislative leaders to back the mayor’s plan to tax the rich to fund universal pre-K programs.
Mr. de Blasio previously called the pro-charter event a “sideshow” aimed at distracting from his pre-K push, and Mr. de Blasio’s allies have used even harsher language. A letter from the labor-backed Working Families Party yesterday said the rally was “hard to stomach” and was only meant “to undermine and disrupt a lobby day meant to support Mayor de Blasio’s plan for universal pre-K.”
But none of that dissuaded Mr. Cuomo, who said he was “committed” to making sure charter schools have enough space to succeed. Mr. de Blasio’s administration last week pulled the plug on nine schools attempting to co-locate with public schools, including a handful of charters.
“Parents deserve the choice! I am committed to ensuring charter schools have the financial capacity, the physical space and the government’s support to thrive and to grow!” Mr. Cuomo boomed to the packed crowd, boosted by children and teachers from charters schools that canceled classes today to go to Albany.
“There is nothing more important for our children than their education and that’s why I will not compromise. And education is what makes the American dream a reality,” said Mr. Cuomo. “And you being here today is a tremendous step in the right direction!”
State Senator Jeff Klein, the leader of his chamber’s breakaway Democratic faction that governs with Republicans, also spoke at the event, as did Senator Dean Skelos, the GOP leader. Mr. Klein, who had just attended Mr. de Blasio’ rally, vowed he would protect charter schools facing off against “City Hall.”
“There’s a lot of talk now that somehow, ‘City Hall is going to defund charter schools. City Hall is going to do away with what’s known s co-locations,'” said Mr. Klein. “Well I stand here today and I make a commitment to you: In this year’s state budget, we’ll make sure charter schools continue!”
Eva Moskowitz, a charter leader and de Blasio foe who organized today’s charter rally, has insisted her event was not meant to undermine Mr. de Blasio’s pre-K efforts.
Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Cuomo are set to meet later this afternoon, according to an administration source.
Watch Mr. Cuomo’s speech below:
Additional reporting by Jill Colvin.