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Cuomo, de Blasio speak at dueling education rallies in Albany

Karen Dewitt
Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at an educational rally in Albany on Tuesday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at dueling rallies on education at the state Capitol, highlighting the two politicians’ differences over education issues.   

A rally to promote de Blasio’s plan for universal pre-K had been planned for weeks. The mayor spoke to around 1,500 union members, urging them to put pressure on lawmakers to approve in the state budget the mayor’s plan to provide classes for thousands of four-year-olds starting in September.

“This is the year we’re going to convince Albany no more waiting, no more delays, no more watering down,” de Blasio said. “When we need this for our children now.”

De Blasio is seeking permission from Cuomo and the legislature to raise income taxes on the rich to pay for universal pre-K, but so far Cuomo has said he wants the state to fund it instead, in a five year phase-in plan.

Cuomo was not at the pre-K rally. Instead, he was the featured speaker at a more recently planned, and bigger event just two blocks away, in front of the state Capitol.

“I don’t feel cold, I feel hot!” Cuomo shouted to cheers. “I feel fired up!”

Several thousand charter school students and their teachers protested de Blasio’s plan to bar some charter schools from rent-free space in New York City public schools.  

Cuomo, highlighting another difference in policy approach between the governor and the mayor, assured the crowd that he would help the schools.

“We stand with you, you are not alone,” Cuomo told the students. “We will save charter schools.”

The governor did not mention de Blasio by name in his speech, and de Blasio did not mention Cuomo.

The two later met in a two hour closed door meeting. Afterward, de Blasio characterized it as productive, but offered no details. Cuomo did not speak to reporters.

Republicans, who rule the Senate in a coalition government, have also rejected de Blasio’s plan to tax the rich. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, has been a supporter. But Silver, who also spoke at the universal pre-kindergarten rally, did not specifically commit himself to backing a new tax on the wealthy. He said only that funding needs to be "significant, recurring and sustainable year after year."

But Silver, speaking to reporters before the event, said the mayor’s proposal to tax the rich is definitely still on the table.

The Speaker refused to be drawn into the rivalry between de Blasio and Cuomo, and their competing rallies.

“That’s Albany,” he said. “At its finest.”

Silver says he doesn’t read anything more into it.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.