Mayor de Blasio dug in his heels on charter schools Monday, as the fierce debate threatened to cost him control of the city’s school system and bring back the bad old days of the Board of Ed.
At a City Hall rally, de Blasio claimed he’s done everything he can to accommodate charters and offered to “sit down anytime, anywhere” for “a constructive dialogue about how we can work with charter schools and with parents who are in charter schools.”
The mayor also predicted dire consequences if he loses his showdown with state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who wants to lift the cap on the number of privately run public schools in the city, now set at 23 new charters.
But with the law granting mayoral control over city schools set to expire at midnight on June 30 — and Albany’s legislative session ending on Wednesday — Hizzoner faced the prospect of a crushing defeat that he has said would return “chaos” and “corruption” to education in the city.
“Mayor de Blasio is playing chicken with the futures of 48,000-plus students waiting for a shot at a better education through charter schools.
Parents should be appalled,” said Brandon Muir of the pro-charter group Reclaim New York.
“It’s a no-brainer to lift the charter-school cap and extend mayoral control,” he added.
A spokeswoman for Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy, which runs 41 charter schools, claimed that de Blasio “has been anything but fair to charter- school families from the moment he took office.”
Hizzoner’s offenses range “from evicting Harlem’s highest-performing middle-schoolers to stonewalling parents for months on end, only to offer inadequate temporary solutions, despite the 144,000 empty seats across the city,” said the spokeswoman, Nicole Sizemore.
Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos, a mayoral ally on education, countered that “charter schools shouldn’t be playing politics with children as pawns."
“Holding the public-school system hostage for charter-school expansion isn’t right,” said Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side. “Parents in my district aren’t asking for more charter school seats. They’re asking for more seats in traditional public schools.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) also turned up the heat, vowing Monday that he wouldn’t convene a special session later this year if the matter isn’t settled by Wednesday.
“We’re not coming back,” Heastie said.
The state in 2002 handed control of the city schools to then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg under a law that briefly expired in 2009 before being renewed for another six years.
De Blasio sought a permanent extension — which he then scaled back to three years — before winning just a one-year renewal in 2015, shortly after his failed effort to engineer a Democratic takeover of the state Senate. Lawmakers also granted him another one-year extension last year.
On Monday, de Blasio said reconstituting the Board of Ed and its 32 local school boards could cost city taxpayers $1.6 billion over the next 10 years.
He also said losing control of the school system could mean the end of his popular “pre-K for all” program.
De Blasio made his remarks surrounded by a crowd of supporters from various unions, but the United Federation of Teachers was conspicuously absent.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew issued a statement shortly after the rally ended, saying, “Mayoral control should not be a matter for debate, and doesn’t need the UFT to defend it.”
De Blasio avoided direct attacks on Flanagan, but others took aim at the Long Island Republican.
“How dare Flanagan, from Suffolk County, tell us what is good for our children,” state NAACP President Hazel Dukes fumed. “The neighborhoods of his district in Suffolk don’t look like any district in New York City.
“Give our city and our mayor control. If not, we’ll meet you in the street, we’ll meet you in your districts.”