‘Don’t Believe the Hype’: Bill de Blasio Insists He’s Not Out to Destroy Charter Schools

Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Photo: NYC Mayor's Office)

Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office)

Mayor Bill de Blasio, appearing for the second time since taking office on the rollicking hip-hop station HOT 97, insisted he was not an enemy of charter schools this morning and skewered the press for its coverage of the controversy.

“I’m feeling like they’re making you look like you’re anti-charter school,” remarked one of the station’s morning show hosts, giving the mayor–whom they referred to as “our favorite mayor”–an opportunity to defend himself.

“You are absolutely correct. It’s not the case,” said Mr. de Blasio, who bristled at the suggestion that he was simply punishing the schools because he holds a vendetta against them.

“We’re going to work with the charters, we’re absolutely going to work with the charters, but we need to do it a different way and we need to do it in a way that’s more fair,” said the mayor. “We’re going to treat them … the same way we treat traditional public schools. We’re not going to favor them the way the Bloomberg administration did.”

“By the way last week, we also approved a number of charters that are going to be co-located,” he later added. “So I’m just not going to buy into the hype that tries to misrepresent what happened. We will work with charter schools.”

Mr. de Blasio enraged charter school advocates, particularly Success Academy Charter Schools founder Eva Moskowitz, when he decided last week to strip three of her schools of the right to co-locate in traditional public schools. While Mr. de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, dramatically expanded the number of charter schools in the city and worked closely with Ms. Moskowitz, Mr. de Blasio has been critical toward the schools, which are technically public but independently run.

Mr. de Blasio has still rubber stamped most of the co-locations originally approved under Mr. Bloomberg. But at a rally in Albany this week, Ms. Moskowitz drew thousands of charter school students and parents to protest Mr. de Blasio’s decision and received a critical boost from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who spoke forcefully in her defense. The Daily News followed up with a cover story today outlining the plight of the booted Success Academy children as they scramble to find new schools for the fall, dubbing them “Mayor de Blasio’s educational orphans.”

In a delicate balancing act this morning, Mr. de Blasio tried to downplay the outcry over the issue, and agreed with the sympathetic radio hosts that much of the animus aimed his way was coming from “very wealthy Wall Street folks.”

Asked whether the push back against him was being funded by “big business” that was just upset that Mr. Bloomberg was no longer mayor, Mr. de Blasio concurred. “I think you’re providing a keen political analysis,” he said with a laugh. “I think HOT 97 is where to turn for insightful political analysis.”

The group had harsher words for the city’s press corps, which has had an increasingly antagonistic relationship with the mayor that the morning hosts clearly do not share.

“Don’t believe the hype. I know on the cover of the paper today, the big business marketing campaign will have us believe that black children are now being kicked out of charter schools and being mistreated because of de Blasio. I don’t know if you’ve seen the paper yet this morning, but that is how they’re positioning it,” one of the hosts lamented.

“And why,” complained another, “[do] they have to try to make it in the paper look this week as if Gov. Cuomo’s rally was like the Super Bowl and Mayor de Blasio’s rally was like…”

“A pizza party at my house!” another interjected.

“I have gotten used to the fact that a lot of the headlines don’t reflect what we actually said. And the fact is, we’re going to work with everyone,” replied Mr. de Blasio.

The interview ended with the mayor revealing that he’s a big fan of the Netflix series House of Cards and joking about skipping work for a few days to catch up on the show.

“Do not take that quote out of the interview and misuse that quote!” one of the hosts quickly warned reporters listening. “They’re going to misquote our guy!”