Put aside the chess-match analysis for a moment: The fact that Bill de Blasio is apparently on the verge of getting Albany to fork over hundreds of millions to fund pre-kindergarten is a massive victory for the mayor.
This was an idea, remember, that was widely regarded as unrealistically ambitious when de Blasio first proposed to make it happen. The fact that Andrew Cuomo is ostensibly the one calling the shots on pre-K, and taking the credit, doesn’t change the incontrovertible truth that without de Blasio, none of it would be happening.
Strip away Cuomo’s showmanship, head fakes and mastery of the meta-narrative, and here’s what you’re left with: De Blasio got an uber-controlling, fiscally conservative governor facing re-election, with nearly all the leverage to control Albany’s spending, who previously cut pre-kindergarten throughout the state, to cough up the money for a massive new social program.
We still don’t know what the final outcome of negotiations will be, of course, but we already know that the State Senate -- usually Cuomo’s ally against the more liberal Assembly -- has proposed all the money de Blasio wants … over the objections of the governor.
Zeff goes on to write that the chess-match between de Blasio and Cuomo over the funding exposed de Blasio's weaknesses and that exposure will futher weaken the mayor down the road:
There is of course the reputational damage that he continues to sustain. This isn’t just a question of wounded pride: The mayor’s operation is now exposed as severely wanting, sacrificing the popular mandate he claimed to have and providing yet another reminder to Albany’s decision-makers that there is no price to be paid for trifling with a New York City mayor’s agenda.
Polls show voters do support de Blasio’s educational goals, but it’s hard to argue that the bumps and bruises he incurred during this battle didn’t play some role in the (easily recoverable but significant) decline in his approval ratings.
With this political erosion comes, quite possibly, an erosion of the mayor’s statutory prerogative: In exchange for the pre-K money, the state may force him to give up a significant amount of mayoral power when it comes to schools, with legislators apparently planning to overrule his ability to block charter-school co-locations. The phrase “poison pill” doesn’t begin to describe it.
Zeff does note the hypocrisy of Cuomo and others in Albany, often champions of mayoral control of schools, undercutting the current NYC mayor because they don't like his agenda:
It happens to be a stunningly hypocritical thing, that some the loudest champions for mayoral accountability of city schools are proposing to undermine it, now that they don’t agree with the mayor’s philosophy. But that’s unlikely to stop them from trying to do so.
Zeff writes that even as de Blasio's political capital seems almost spent in just getting his pre-K program funded, now comes the hard part - creating it. Critics will point out ever real and imagined foible of the new program. But de Blasio must learn to handle these attacks - and his the future battles he picks - with more skill than he has so far shown.
Especially on the charter school/public school issue:
Some fights, he can’t control. And on charters, he can’t afford to concede quietly. There’s a larger principle, mayoral accountability, at stake. And there’s a national debate about the sanctity and importance of investing in public schools.
De Blasio has been at his best in this fight when he’s made it less of a one-on-one snip-fest with Eva Moskowitz (which enhances her and diminishes him) and more of a defense of the need to protect the system that educates 94 percent of New York City’s children.
Though you'd never know it from the way his fight with Moskowitz has played out, the polling is on de Blasio’s side. People in the pro-charter movement privately concede that proprietary surveys of city voters are not actually so hot for them (particularly among white liberals). Even in the much-hyped recent public poll showing the mayor only getting the approval of 39 percent of the city (an imprecise number that counts “excellent” and “good” as approval, and “fair” and “poor” as the opposite), 60 percent of those surveyed approved of his emphasis on public schools.
The best way to win this argument? Actually trust New Yorkers to hear and understand a substantive explanation and defense of public schools.
Can you imagine how viral such a moment might be—like Elizabeth Warren’s explanation of social responsibility at a fund-raiser in 2012—if the mayor of New York stood up and gave an impassioned defense of the schools that the vast majority of the city's children still rely on, and of the simple idea that they can't be improved by taking away resources?
An excellent analysis on the de Blasio administration's first few months in office and what the strategy should be for de Blasio going forward.
Defend public schools by pointing out Eva wants to take away space from the autistic kids and special needs kids - an attack that happens to be effective because it's true.
Say "I have nothing against charters, I just don't like when they take away space and resources from public school kids."
I have argued that should have been the pre-emptive strike de Blasio and his team should ahve launched before they announced the overturning of the co-locations.
That's one of the things they MUST get better at going forward - anticipating the battles and pre-empting them, especially when they have the facts and the polling on their side.