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Thousand Brave Cold In Albany To Take Sides In Charter School Vs. Pre-K Debate

Skelos Lauds Turnout For 'Civics' Lesson, Vows Tax On Wealthy Will Not Be In Budget

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a massive state Capitol rally for charter schools that he’s committed to making sure they have money and a physical space to thrive.

“We are going to save charter schools, and you’re making it happen by being here today,” the governor emphatically said. “Some people said you shouldn’t have come to Albany … it was a waste of time, but it’s probably the most important civics lesson you’re going to receive.”

More than 3,000 parents and students turned out Tuesday at an event organized after Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to reverse a decision not to allow three Harlem charter schools to use space in public school buildings — even though it was promised to them.

“We’re left homeless, and that’s a very sad state of affairs for a school that’s one of the top performing, not only in the city, but the state,” said William Loskoch, principal of charter school Harlem 4.

A caravan of more than a dozen buses left Harlem on Tuesday morning carrying charter school students, parents and teachers, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported.

Fifth-grader Lennay Brown said she believes she’s receiving a superior education.

“They help us work hard and push us to do the right thing,” she told Adams.

“They are strict because they want us to learn more,” another student said.

Some parents on the bus said they voted for de Blasio, but have been disappointed with his effort to boot charter schools from city buildings.

“The Harlem Success [Academy] is producing,” father Ansel Watson said. “I’ve watched my child go from a C level to a B level and going to an A level. And it’s like, why would you want to stop something that is working? If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Of course I feel betrayed and like I said, it makes no sense to me.”

“It’s very sad and the thing about it is we expected better from him, and he’s letting us down completely,” another parent said.

“We’re here in Albany to stop the tail of two school systems. That needs to come to an end.  Charter schools are public schools,” one parent told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones.

De Blasio did allow 14 other charter schools to keep the space given to them by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The three that lost their space all are part of the Success Academy Charter School system, led by de Blasio’s longtime political rival, Eva Moskowitz.

Moskowitz instructed her 22 schools to close Tuesday so students could join the protest. Several dozen other schools have joined Success Academy in a coalition that has unveiled a multi-million dollar ad campaign to object to de Blasio’s decision.

Cuomo attended the charter school rally at about the same time as de Blasio addressed a crowd blocks away. The mayor’s rally was attended by hundreds of union members, parents and religious leaders, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

“Every Legislature needs to stand behind universal pre-K and after-school. And for me if you are lawmaker who does not support it, you do not need to be a lawmaker,” said the Rev. Que English, of the Bronx.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was also in attendance. Silver has supported pre-K for more than 15 years.

“I can’t predict what’s going to happen. I am happy pre-K has taken a front row in the Albany debate,” Silver told Kramer.

The mayor brushed off the charter schools protest as a “sideshow” to why he was in Albany on Tuesday, to once again push lawmakers to fund his signature prekindergarten plan, CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang reported.

De Blasio insisted the best way to pay for prekindergarten is by asking those earning at least $500,000 a year to pay more in taxes, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.

“Just a little more so we can have a stronger city in the future,” de Blasio told pre-K supporters. “Well, that’s just plain fair.”

Cuomo has proposed that prekindergarten instead be funded through the state budget, while arguing that giving New York City the ability to tax its millionaires creates inequality for other communities in the state which don’t have the same affluent tax base.

And Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos, of Rockville Centre, said de Blasio’s plan has little chance of clearing Albany.

“The income tax increase is not going to be voted on. It’s not going to be part of this budget,” he added.

De Blasio and Cuomo were set to meet later Tuesday. De Blasio also was to meet with key lawmakers.

Despite frequently describing themselves as longtime friends, neither Cuomo nor de Blasio has publicly suggested much of a willingness to compromise.

We probably won’t know who wins the pre-K and charter fights until the state budget is adopted. The deadline is March 31.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)