Former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said he doesn't see a lot of courage among the candidates vying to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg, according to a speech he is scheduled to deliver Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
Klein is addressing a conference by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools where he follows U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Much of Klein's speech, shared with media outlets in advance, focuses on his record of expanding the number of New York City charter schools from 18 to 125 during his eight years as chancellor.
"The key ingredient to that work was courage," according to the speech. "And courage to tell political special interests, 'no thanks, we’re putting the children first.'"
Klein, who is now Chief Executive Officer of Rupert Murdoch's education technology company Amplify, says it "saddens" him to see "a complete lack of courage among most of the candidates running to replace [Bloomberg] when it comes to choice in education.
"For example, some of these people want to turn back the clock and take choice and opportunity away from parents by ending or freezing the charter co-location policies that proved so critical to students and families in Harlem and around New York City. They may say they support charters, but without co-location these schools have no place to go and would effectively disappear.
"I think some folks might ignore these children and their families because they don’t have political action committees or City Hall lobbyists."
At least two Democratic mayoral candidates took Klein's warring words as a badge of honor. Dan Levitan, a spokesman for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, said, "de Blasio is the only candidate with the courage to ask the wealthy to pay more in taxes so we can finally have universal Pre-K for all New York City's children -- a goal Klein, Mayor Bloomberg, and Speaker Quinn only give lip service to."
Former City Comptroller Bill Thompson's campaign said: "Unlike the Mayor's team who spends their time pitting parents against one another, Bill Thompson is focused on making sure each community has a great neighborhood public school so every child has a chance at a great education."
Thompson was endorsed by the teachers union.
Two other Democrats were more subdued in their reactions. "Anthony likes and respects Joel," said Barbara Morgan, a spokeswoman for former Congressman Anthony Weiner. "Anthony has made it clear that he is not opposed to charters. But the focus on charters should not lose sight of the other 95 percent of students who are in traditional public schools."
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn didn't mention the former chancellor but she said: "I support charter schools. I've long said that to have charter schools, you have to have co-locations. A moratorium on co-locations is double talk for opposing charter schools."
In the past, Quinn has expressed concern over co-locations that aren't working because of the city's lack of planning.
Another Democrat running for mayor, Comptroller John Liu, has called for charters to pay rent if they take space inside district school buildings.
Klein's remarks resonated with Jessica Proud, a spokeswoman for Republican mayoral hopeful Joseph Lhota. "There is no daylight between Joel Klein and Joe Lhota on this issue," she said. "He is the only candidate in the race who has laid out a comprehensive education plan that continues the reforms under the Bloomberg administration by putting students first."