Cuomo embraces his ‘disruptive’ charter stance

Andrew Cuomo speaks at a pro-charter rally in Albany. (AP Photo/Tim Roske)
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Governor Andrew Cuomo cast himself as a "disruptive" force in support of charter schools, in a congratulatory appearance on the first episode of John Catsimatidis' new radio show.

"That word is important, John: disruptive," said Cuomo, in a 10-minute appearance on Sunday morning, that included lots of praise from Catsimatidis, a former Republican mayoral candidate.

"We have a big bureaucracy with a system that is entrenched, and it funds public education," Cuomo said. "They have their lobbyists and they have their little public relations teams, and they have their front groups and their advocates, and this is disruptive to that entire system, which is a multi-billion dollar system, so you get a lot of pressure against charter schools."

Cuomo has made himself the public face of the pro-charter movement in New York in recent weeks, appearing at a pro-charter rally in Albany that was organized in reaction to Mayor Bill de Blasio's decision to reverse three charter co-locations in New York City.

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On Friday, he soaked up praise from pro-charter supporters at a speech to the Association for a Better New York, and on Sunday, Catismatidis, the billionaire owner of the Gristedes’ grocery store chain, cheered Cuomo’s education policy, saying the governor had “raised the confidence of all New Yorkers” with his plans to fund universal pre-kindergarten without raising taxes, as de Blasio had proposed.

Catsimatidis, a proud son of Greek immigrants, said charter schools would help minority students.

“Ninety three percent of the kids in charter schools are minorities that finally got a chance to succeed, and we shouldn’t be kicking them in the butt, pardon my language,” he said.

Cuomo drew some praise later in the show from former governor George Pataki, who criticized de Blasio's charter decision, saying, "it’s just terrible now to see the mayor looking to roll back the progress we’ve made over a decade."

Cuomo also talked about his overall reduction in state government, citing public education as one example of where the state had tried to solve problems with more public spending.

And he repeated an anecdote from his ABNY lunch about a recent conversation with a Haitian doorman on Park Avenue.

The doorman, whose name Cuomo did not give, had taken a day off of work to travel to Albany with his son for a pro-charter school rally earlier this month, Cuomo said.

According to the governor, the doorman told him, “in my neighborhood the public schools are failing, and if I don’t get my son into a charter school I have no options.”

“For your generation, my generation, you could go to a public school and end up anything you want,” Cuomo said, to his appreciative host.

“I’m proud of you for doing this,” Cuomo told Catsimatidis. “Keep agitating the conversation because we need an intelligent productive conversation, more than ever."