Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997, initially as a staff writer for the New
The ink was barely dry on a new state budget this week when its enactment was celebrated in a TV commercial -- one that viewers might have mistaken for a campaign ad for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
"Parents from Brooklyn to the Bronx had a cause," says the narrator over syrupy music and photos from a pro-charter-school rally in Albany. "And, they had a voice. They just needed some champions."
At that moment, a still shot appears of Cuomo addressing listeners outdoors. "Gov. Cuomo and Albany leaders proposed a groundbreaking budget . . ." And on goes effusive praise of that plan.
With the commercial, the charter-advocacy group, Families for Excellent Schools, implicitly hails the fact that Cuomo and lawmakers overrode New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's move to constrict the charter schools' so-called "co-locations" within the city's public schools.
Politically, it may prove sooner or later that Cuomo did de Blasio a favor -- if inadvertently -- when the governor last month lurched to the front of the charter parade in disharmony with the new mayor.
That is, the governor and allied legislators took the controversy off the table for the moment. A somewhat chastened de Blasio now draws less targeting from this well-funded lobby, which touts the support charters draw in polls.
"The mayor got himself into a box on this," said Robert Bellafiore, a communication consultant who works for charter schools.
"The governor gave him a way out, but in Albany, there's no such thing as a favor done for free." That is, de Blasio saw some of his early school stances overruled.
De Blasio's predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, once proposed a football stadium for the West Side. The idea polled poorly. The plan was stymied in Albany -- months before Bloomberg's first re-election. The stadium controversy died immediately, and some ex-Bloomberg aides see that defeat as having proved politically fortunate.
That said, the charter-school episode still bears all the markings of a policy setback for de Blasio, delivered in the form of legislative language enacted with the state budget.
After dialing back some of his anti-charter remarks, de Blasio saw his cancellation of space-sharing plans for three Success Academy charters reversed. And City Hall is barred from charging charters rent in district-owned school buildings.
Tension over the charters' role lingers. The forum for the fight, however, will now likely shift from the Capitol to City Hall and the Municipal Building. Next Tuesday, for example, City Council Education Committee chairman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) conducts a hearing on a bill requiring charters to reveal more information about their operations.
For his part, de Blasio says that when it comes to charters, "decisions about the space will be managed by the [city] Department of Education. That's the bottom line."
Skeptics and foes of charter expansion might also have won what may become a key concession -- the explicit authority for City Comptroller Scott Stringer's office to audit the impact of the charter schools.
The United Federation of Teachers, which has sought to keep the charters in check, comes away with gains in the budget deal. The major planned expansion of pre-K programs across the city is expected to increase its membership.