Out of the blue, House Republicans have a new way to promote charter schools -- challenge newly-elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's attack on the facilities that have the support of President Obama and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The new mayor on Thursday moved to block three new charter schools from moving into city real estate, deals previously approved by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- even though they had already begun hiring staff.
“There was a rush to make these decisions by the previous administration,” de Blasio said Thursday after reviewing the charter school applications. “Some of these were not fair, did not make sense, and we took action.”
He was a critic of charter schools during the election, but his rejection of already OK'd schools drew House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's ire.
"New York City has been a leader in education opportunity,” Cantor said. “The program is so successful that over 50,000 kids are on the wait-list for spots at charter schools. The House of Representatives will continue to do everything we can to fight for these kids, and I hope Governor Cuomo, long an ally of charter schools, will join us in condemning the mayor's actions today."
While opposed by some unions, charter schools offer parents a different type of school that is outside the normal public system. They generally have bipartisan appeal.
But de Blasio wants to put a leash on them, and at least charge rent in the expensive city.
Stopping the three schools, and potentially more, gives House Republicans a new target in the liberal de Blasio as they move to build an agenda of alternative policies for middle-class voters to consider in the coming midterm elections.
In his statement reacting to the mayor’s action, Cantor even hinted at a theme to challenge de Blasio.
"Mayor de Blasio has decided to continue his war against kids, most of whom live in poverty, by forcing charter schools to relocate or cancel scheduled openings. Poor and minority children deserve the best education opportunity possible, not to be stuck in failing schools because of the mayor’s hostility towards helping them. Tonight, parents will go to sleep worried that their kids will soon no longer have access to the education they need, and that is shameful. Most of these parents are struggling to get by, and their kids don’t deserve this,” said Cantor.
The majority leader has hit de Blasio before on opposing charter schools. In January, he gave a speech at the Brookings Institution during which he said, “Our committees in the House will remain vigilant in their efforts to ensure that no one, no one from the government, stands in the schoolhouse door between any child and a good education.”Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.