New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this weekend that the state legislature had passed a budget that delivered a double blow to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s agenda, providing funding that would eliminate the need for a tax increase de Blasio campaigned on and enforcing safeguards for charter schools.
According to The New York Times, Mayor de Blasio’s city would received $300 million from the state to develop a universal pre-Kindergarten program free and open to the public. That money would fall $40 million short of the goal amount de Blasio proposed he could raise with a tax increase on wealthy New Yorkers but is still enough money to start the program and render the tax obsolete.
The new budget would also require that de Blasio find space in public schools for charter school programs or pay to rent space for them. It also provided more funding to charter schools.
Bloomberg News notes that the new budget also places a referendum on this year’s election ballot regarding a $2 billion bond for school technology, “a measure to give property owners rebates on their taxes if their local governments control spending.” It also lowers the corporate tax rate down to a percentage unseen since 1968.
While de Blasio put on a positive public face about the new budget, calling the new money coming into his administration from Albany “an extraordinary and historic step forward for New York City,” the move directly prevents the mayor from coming through on his campaign promise to increase taxes on the rich and represents a major political victory for Governor Cuomo, who as of late had become something of an unspoken adversary to the mayor. Cuomo had been very clear in opposing the new tax, and on education generally reports had surfaced that Cuomo was sending aides to privately persuade de Blasio supporters to oppose the tax and support charter schools.
The new funding and requirement that charter schools be accommodated in the state is an even bigger political loss for de Blasio. The mayor sparked a firestorm of opposition when he rescinded approval for three Success Academy charter schools that former mayor Michael Bloomberg had approved before leaving office. Parents complained that their children were crying over being evicted from their schools and that the plan was “crazy” and marched to Albany to protest. Rather than support his fellow Democrat, Governor Cuomo came down from the state capitol and gave a rousing speech against de Blasio at a rally supporting charter schools, a moment in which tensions reached their peak.
In halting the new tax on the wealthy and safeguarding the rights of charter schools within the city, Governor Cuomo prevented de Blasio from enacting much of his education agenda. The budget does allow, however, for de Blasio to argue that he did bring a universal pre-Kindergarten program to the city, though not on his terms.