Ire in The Empire (State) | City and State NY

Ire In The Empire (State)

Last year, like many political junkies I traipsed behind the NYC Democratic mayoral candidates from one earnest but repetitive forum after another. As a camp follower, I was most interested in their education proposals.

At the June 2013, NYC Parents Mayoral Forum on Education, sponsored by a coalition of labor unions, community organizations and parents advocacy organizations, candidates signed a pledge committing themselves to implementing their responses to questions about special ed services, school governance and parent empowerment, class size and co-locations, testing, privacy and school safety, and diversity, closing the achievement gap and after-school services.

That forum’s pledges (as well as others) can serve as checklists for measuring de Blasio’s ability to keep his campaign promises.

Then as now, education reformers and parents of children in public charters schools and on waiting lists were fearful of the Democratic mayoral candidates. At the time, de Blasio and the other leading Democrats denounced co-location, the rent-free space given charters in public school buildings and the scourge of Eva Moskowitz as each angled for the UFT endorsement.

At the advent of the de Blasio administration, the charter school movement seemed dispirited over the prospects of the post-Bloomberg era. There was talk of running TV ads to pillory and chasten de Blasio into continuing Mayor Bloomberg’s charter school program.

Since becoming Mayor, de Blasio symbolically eliminated building aid for charter schools in his preliminary budget. Truth be told that money was never real. It was a budget booby-trap that an outgoing Bloomberg administration left behind for de Blasio to obligingly trip.

It must have come as a surprise to the new Mayor that Governor Cuomo would use his budget “cut,” his pledge to charge some charter schools rent, and his rescinding of three co-locations as bludgeons in their re-election year budget battle. Cuomo’s effective use of de Blasio’s “anti-charter” stance brought new meaning to the statement that “with Cuomo as a friend, who needs enemies.”

Despite their education policy disagreements with Mayor Bloomberg, none of the mayoral candidates pledged to abandon Bloomberg’s signature achievement: mayoral control. De Blasio and Thompson fully embraced mayoral control because it puts the city’s chief executive in charge.

At the NYC Parents Forum, de Blasio declined to cede three of his Panel on Educational Priorities appointments to direct election by citywide public school parents.

Suddenly this month, Cuomo and the State Senate co-leaders proposed curtailing mayoral control of city public schools, at least, as it pertained to charter schools. It was a move akin to the Russian navy blockading Ukrainian naval vessels in their home port of Sevastopol.

A wily Cuomo had outmaneuvered de Blasio once again.

The next few days will provide some insight into the future of the Cuomo-de Blasio relationship in areas of policy disagreement. This isn’t a mere clash of personality; it’s a clash of different approaches to politics. It’s a fight between two old Democratic operatives: a ruthless asymmetrical tactician (who plays the angles) vs. a chummy ideologue (who eschews street fighting).

It’s a fight for the soul of the state, if not, the national, Democratic party. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the Clinton-Obama electoral fracas in 2008.

I think Cuomo knows how that one turned out. No doubt, he aims to come out on top in every clash with the New York Mayor.

And I’ll be traipsing along with everyone else chronicling the “Ire in the Empire (State).”
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Former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin (@SquarePegDem on Twitter) represented the Bronx for eight years.

About SquarePegDem

A former state legislator turned NY Post editorial board member, thought-leader, public affairs consultant and commentator, columnist and blogger. Michael has appeared on Al Jazeera America Tonight, NY1/Inside City Hall, LIVE, YNN/Capital Tonight, The Brian Lehrer Show, The Fred Dicker Show, The Capitol Press Room, and The Daily Show. His op-eds have appeared in the NY Post, City and State, The Legislative Gazette, Bronx Times, The Troy Record, Buffalo News, and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. To schedule speaking engagements, email FOMB08@GMAIL.COM.
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2 Responses to Ire in The Empire (State) | City and State NY

  1. Dale Benjamin Drakeford says:

    So true! So far the only thing I am happy about witht hte new mayor that I supported as hard as I did Bloomberg is his stance against Charter Schools. If he succeeds it won’t be enough to wipe out the sanitation mess in his first few weeks or his questionable selections to head ACS and DOE, but we can also credit him with closure of at least one union contract and that buys him some time. As for the Gov. I am still in shock about how well this Clinton boy has done out on his own. He has not been the castastrophy of the HUD era. He is not participating in executive orders that can bring the economy to its knees. Perhaps the political war between the second and third biggest executives in the nation is a good thing. Somehow (maybe, just maybe) the real people of the state will benefit. Cuomo is wrong on Charters, and will will make him pay for that, but if he can be right on many other things, he too will be forgiven and allowed to continue his surprisingly effective stewardship.


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