- Associated Press - Friday, February 28, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - A showdown over charter schools in New York City is looming in Albany as advocates for the schools plan to hold a rally at the state capital Tuesday just as Mayor Bill de Blasio is there pushing his pre-kindergarten plan.

De Blasio made good on a campaign promise this week to curb the influence of the growing charter school movement by reversing his predecessor Michael Bloomberg’s eleventh-hour decision to allow three schools free rent in public school buildings. The schools - which are taxpayer-funded but privately run - are part of the Success Academy Charter School system, helmed by de Blasio’s longtime political rival Eva Moskowitz.

Moskowitz is closing all 22 of her schools Tuesday so parents and students can join dozens of other charter school leaders to rally in Albany just as de Blasio is there to make a late pitch for his signature proposal, a tax hike on wealthy New Yorkers to fund a full-day pre-kindergarten program for all children.

De Blasio was dismissive of Moskowitz, simply saying she “has a right as an American citizen to do what she sees fit.”

“I don’t think any sideshow takes away from that. I think the people understand how crucial this is to our school system,” de Blasio said during a press conference at City Hall on Friday. “I don’t think any sideshow or individual on a soapbox can change that societal consensus.”

De Blasio needs the state legislature to approve the tax hike. His trip to Albany, where he will be joined by allies on the city council and organized labor, has been planned for weeks. The charter schools rally, which is expected to draw several thousand parents and supporters, was scheduled this week.

The de Blasio administration reviewed 45 co-location approvals made by Bloomberg’s team in its final months in office. The new mayor is allowing 36 of those to go forward, including 14 charter schools. Five of the eight proposals put forward by Moskowitz’s group were approved.

“There are some charter school leaders who would say there is no way in hell they would go to Albany to march against pre-k and after-school (programs), many of whom do not think Eva Moskowitz speaks for them,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio has pledged to charge rent to “well-resourced” charter schools and has called for a moratorium on allowing new charters to share buildings with traditional schools.

The charter school rally, organized by charter school advocacy group Families for Excellent Schools, is expected to draw more than 85 schools and organizations from across the state.

“Our ask is simple: Treat all public charter schools fairly,” said Jeremiah Kittredge, executive director of Families for Excellent Schools.

A call to Moskowitz, a former city council member who has frequently clashed with de Blasio over schools, was referred to Kittredge. The charter school coalition has also released a multi-million dollar ad campaign urging de Blasio to reconsider and claiming that his decision hurts less fortunate students who would not otherwise have access to quality schools.

Though the rally’s organizers took pains to say they do not oppose de Blasio’s pre-kindergarten plan, a coalition of 18 independent charters have opted out of participating in the upcoming rally, releasing a statement saying “Tuesday is not a day to be divided.”



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