In a sign of his growing impatience with the plan, New York state
Governor Andrew Cuomo defended his turf at an opposing rally that
criticized the mayor's stance on charter schools.
De Blasio insists he needs to increase taxes on high-earning city
residents to raise $530 million over the next five years for
universal pre-K, something for which he needs state approval.
Cuomo, who has committed to cutting taxes, has set aside $300
million over the next two years to fund pre-school programs. Rather
than accept that, De Blasio is building a grass roots movement to
push for the tax hike on earners making over $500,000. That has put
him on a direct collision course with Cuomo, who faces reelection in
"They say it's cold out here, but I don't feel cold, I feel hot! I
feel fired up!, Cuomo told an enthusiastic crowd in minus 9 degree
Celsius temperatures (15 Fahrenheit). "The education industry has
said the same thing for decades: more money, and more money, and
more money, and it will change. We spend more money per pupil than
any state in the nation; we're number 32 in results."
Cuomo and de Blasio, both Democrats, have political personas that
resonate well beyond New York. Cuomo is seen a potential
presidential candidate in 2016. De Blasio, New York's first Democrat
mayor in 20 years, has drawn attention for the large support base he
has mustered behind his progressive platform.
"Clearly there is a conflict and Cuomo specifically went to that
rally and was 'hot' and 'fired up'," said Douglas Muzzio, a
specialist in New York politics at the City University of New York.
"He is staking out political turf there that is very different from
what the mayor wants."
Cuomo said 11,000 people attended the Parents Rally organized by
Charters Work. Supporters of charter schools, public schools that
operate outside the city's department of education, are upset with
de Blasio's decision to block three charter schools from using space
inside public schools.
[to top of second column]
Public education is a divisive issue that impacts the lives of
millions of New Yorkers. Competition to get students into charter
schools or the best public schools is fierce with many parents
seeing it as a make or break issue for their children.
Nathan Buck from Harlem attended the rally because his son, a first
grader, goes to ccess Academy Five, a local charter school where he
won a place in a blind lottery.
"There is a misconception that charter schools are private schools
and they are, in fact, public schools," said Buck.
At his event around 1,500 activist parents sent emails and letters
to lawmakers, listened to speeches and met with state politicians.
Ruth Arsenec, a single mother from Staten Island, who made the trip
to Albany to support de Blasio's plan, is trying to get her
three-year old son into pre-school next September but is not sure if
she will be able to find a place for him.
"I am hoping that he will get in," said Arsenec, who became aware of
the benefits of pre-school education after her daughter, now five,
passed through a pre-school program. "It was just completely
astonishing to me to see how she developed and how quickly."
(Writing by Edward Krudy; editing by Andrew Hay)
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