This afternoon, Assemblyman (and maybe Congressional candidate) Hakeem Jeffries responded to allegations made on his Facebook page that he was cozying up to well-heeled charter school supporters in an effort to raise campaign cash.
“There is no more important issue to the community than improving the quality of public education,” he said. “And regardless of the presence of shrill voices in some corners of the debate, we must all continue to search for common ground and do what is right on behalf of our children.”
The issue came to the fore after we reported earlier today that charter school advocates at Democrats for Education Reform have started a fundraising page for Jeffries, a move that set off an unhappy response by an anti-charter, pro-union group.
This whole episode reveals two things–how influential charter school money has become in politics, and how much local education remain a lightning rod for a large segment of the electorate. If Jeffries goes through with his expected campaign against incumbent Congressman Ed Towns, it will be interesting to see how much these issues come to the fore.
In the statement, Jeffries said that he has always pushed for charter schools and been in favor of education reform, but touted his criticism of some of the Bloomberg administration’s pro-charter education department.
“The co-location issue is a complex one, and as we stated in the NY Daily News op-ed, the Department of Education has not historically managed the process well. That said, I have been a consistent voice in the legislature on the issue of education reform and charter schools as an alternative for some of the most disadvantaged black and Latino students in the public school system.
“In this regard, I co-sponsored the legislation in 2010 that lifted the charter school cap in New York State as part of our successful Race to the Top application that secured approximately $700 million in education funding from the federal government. That money will largely be used to help poor, urban school districts. I also introduced a moratorium bill on school closures, but excluded co-locations from the legislation given the complexity of the issue.
“Of course, I have worked closely with some of the Department of Education’s fiercest critics, many of whom were co-plaintiffs with me in the lawsuit Jeffries v. Steiner that challenged the legitimacy of Cathie Black’s appointment as schools chancellor. I also voted no on the extension of mayoral control given the inadequate checks and balances in the system.
“There is no more important issue to the community than improving the quality of public education. And regardless of the presence of shrill voices in some corners of the debate, we must all continue to search for common ground and do what is right on behalf of our children.”
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