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Poll: NYers divided on whether charter schools should pay rent

For the last month, Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota has argued vociferously that Democrat Bill de Blasio doesn’t speak for the majority of New Yorkers when it comes to charter schools.

He got an assist from thousands of charter school parents, teachers, and students who marched across the Brooklyn Bridge two weeks ago to protest de Blasio’s proposal to charge rent to charter schools that operate in public space. That rally made it into a fiery campaign ad last week.

But a new poll finds that likely voters are on de Blasio’s side as much, or more, as they are on Lhota’s.

The poll, out today from the Quinnipiac Polling Institute, finds that 47 percent of New Yorkers think charter schools should be required to pay rent, while 43 percent say the schools should be able to operate in public space rent-free and 10 percent said they did not know what they thought.

With the poll’s margin of error of 3.1 percent, the charter school rent question is a statistical dead heat among likely voters.

And while the poll confirms previous findings that New Yorkers would rather see the city’s charter sector expand than contract, it doesn’t conclude that Lhota’s proposal to add 200 new charter schools to the city is a winning one. Thirty-nine percent of likely voters want to see the city add more charter schools, while just 18 percent say they would like the city to have fewer charter schools.

But a full third of likely voters say the city’s charter sector is just right the way it is. De Blasio has fiercely criticized some charter schools but hasn’t said he wants any to shut down, even though some charter operators say his rent proposal could force them to. That makes his approach preferred by more likely voters than Lhota’s, according to the poll.

Overall, the poll found that 68 percent of likely voters plan to cast their ballots for de Blasio, compared to just 24 percent for Lhota. The full text of the questions on charter schools is below.

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