|Cuomo at staged rally: “You are not alone. We will save charter schools.”|
Javier Hernandez and Susanne Craig, writing in the New York Times, tell an eerie tale about how Gov. Cuomo backed by powerful Wall Streeters and hedge-funders was able to defeat Mayor de Blasio's effort to hold back the charter operators' assault on public schools.
According to Hernandez and Craig:
As the governor worked to solidify support in Albany, his efforts were amplified by an aggressive public relations and lobbying effort financed by a group of charter school backers from the worlds of hedge funds and Wall Street, some of whom have also poured substantial sums into Mr. Cuomo’s campaign (he is up for re-election this fall). The push included a campaign-style advertising blitz that cost more than $5 million and attacked Mr. de Blasio for denying space to three charter schools.
A lot was riding on the debate for Mr. Cuomo. A number of his largest financial backers, some of the biggest names on Wall Street, also happened to be staunch supporters of charter schools. According to campaign finance records, Mr. Cuomo’s re-election campaign has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from charter school supporters, including William A. Ackman, Carl C. Icahn, Bruce Kovner and Daniel Nir.Right-wing billionaire Ken Langone organized Republicans for Cuomo earlier this year knowing that a real Republican had no chance of defeating him. He's donated lots of money to Cuomo's war chest in exchange for the governor's support for charter schools, and issue near and dear to Langone's heart.
Kenneth G. Langone, a founder of Home Depot who sits on a prominent charter school board, gave $50,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s campaign last year. He said that when the governor asked him to lead a group of Republicans supporting his re-election, he agreed because of Mr. Cuomo’s support for charter schools.
Langone: "I talk to him about charters. He gets it."
“Every time I am with the governor, I talk to him about charter schools,” Mr. Langone said in an interview. “He gets it.”Noticeably missing from de Blasio's rearguard were AFT and UFT leaders Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew. Without the teacher unions at his back, and in order to salvage his expanded Pre-K program, the mayor obviously was forced to make a tactical retreat on charters.
My takeaways from this early defeat in de Blasio's battle to redefine New York politics:
- The election of a progressive mayor means little if the grass-roots movement that elected him returns to the barracks when the election is over.
- So-called mayoral control of the schools is a myth. What we saw in N.Y. last week was an exercise in corporate control of the schools. So long as the Wall Streeters and hedge-funders own the governor and most other state politicians, the cities and their schools will be largely at their mercy.
- Mayor de Blasio must pick and choose his battles carefully in accordance with how many troops he has behind him. His election shows that he has the support of the city's poor and working families. But to maintain that support he has to rely on them and organize them to win victories for them.
- While BdB enjoys support from most rank-and-file teachers and other unionists, AFT and UFT leaders or unreliable allies at best.