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Lessons learned? New York's de Blasio, Cuomo compete for charter school support

The debate over charter schools is heating up again between New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with each trying to muscle his way into the spotlight over education reform in the state.

De Blasio, New York's first Democratic mayor in two decades, spent much of the week defending himself against a campaign he claims unfairly paints him as anti-charter school.

Advocates of charter schools are blasting de Blasio for pulling $200 million in capital funding for three charter schools that had been green-lighted by his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.  

During a 12-minute interview on New York radio station Hot 97 Thursday, de Blasio said his recent decision to block three charter schools from moving into rent-free space at public school buildings was being twisted in a pricey push by Wall Street bigwigs to make him look bad.

“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. “We’re not going to favor them the way the Bloomberg administration did.”

Several days earlier, de Blasio and Cuomo, who had a good working relationship in the past, held competing rallies in Albany. Cuomo, who spoke to about 7,000 cheering charter school students, parents and teachers, painted himself as a friend of charter schools.

“You are not alone,” he told the crowd. “We will save charter schools.”

About the same time, de Blasio took the stage at his own much smaller rally about two blocks away to promote his plan to expand pre-kindergarten programs.

Charter schools are public schools funded by taxpayers and were started as an option for all students. Set up as alternatives to traditional public schools, charter schools operate under a private management systems. They promote small class sizes, often academically outperform public schools in the area and encourage more innovative approaches to teaching.