In New York City, a Brewing Fight Over Charter Schools

New York’s governor is a champion of charter schools while the city’s mayor has blocked a few from operating in public school buildings.

Posted: 03/07/2014 02:58 PM EST

There seems to be a war brewing in the field of education in New York. It is being waged between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo over the level at which charter schools should be supported.

The New York media have largely cast the issue starkly. Mayor de Blasio, they suggest, is an opponent of charter schools, and Gov. Cuomo is a champion of them. However, the issue is far more complicated and nuanced, officials on all sides of the issue contend.

The issue is likely to have an impact on the national discussion about the role of charter schools, particularly in relationship with large, urban public school systems.

The mayor took action recently to prevent three charter schools from moving into public school buildings, an expansion that had been established under his predecessor, former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

That drew the ire of charter-school leaders and helped draw the governor to speak at a rally in Albany earlier in the week defending the role of charter schools.

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

Indeed, at that rally, charter school officials and many parents were on hand, specifically African-American and Latino New Yorkers. One advocacy group, Families for Excellent Schools, the rally organizers, have begun a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign on television stations asking de Blasio to refrain from interfering with the work of the charter schools.

In response, Mayor de Blasio has made clear that he wants to enhance the level of education for the more than one million students who attend New York City’s public schools. He has also sought to take pains to portray himself as not being an opponent of charter schools.

“Of course we’re going to work with the charter schools, and there’s a lot of very good charter schools, but we’re going to treat them with an equality as — the same way we treat traditional public schools,” de Blasio said on a radio program this week. “We’re not going to favor them the way the Bloomberg administration did.”

In an interview with BET.com, a spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers, the large union that represents thousands of public school teachers, said that the association had no conflict with the presence of charter schools. He added that the union operates one charter school and represents teachers at a dozen charter schools in New York City.

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Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan

  (Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

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