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Few parents join Lhota as he continues to push charter issue

As Bill de Blasio prepared to visit a school — and snag a cheesecake — with President Barack Obama today, Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota took a few moments to attack de Blasio’s position on charter schools in East Harlem this morning.

Lhota’s appearance outside the public school building that houses Harlem Village Leadership Academy, which was listed on his schedule as a “press conference with charter school parents,” included only a few parents.

It was a much less splashy moment than Lhota’s appearance at the rally of charter school parents who marched across the Brooklyn Bridge earlier this month. There, he spent two hours talking with enthusiastic students and parents, many of which said they were frustrated with Bill de Blasio’s statements that he would make well-financed charter schools pay rent to operate in public space.

Lhota later played up the charter school issue in an ad, and he has made it an issue during the mayoral debates. But the latest polls put his overall support at just 24 percent of voters, and today’s appearance didn’t appear to reflect his earlier momentum.

Standing in front of a school building on Friday morning, Lhota said he doesn’t understand how de Blasio can square his progressive image with his education positions.

“There’s nothing progressive about keeping the status quo,” Lhota said. “You want to talk about progressive? Later on today, go ask President Obama why he is in such support of charter schools.”

It was a reference to Obama’s visit to P-TECH, a six-year (non-charter) high school that has been roundly praised for its innovative model of career preparation and technical education. De Blasio attended that event as the public advocate. Lhota — who as a political candidate who does not otherwise hold office is barred from entering city schools during the 60 days before the mayoral election — said he hadn’t expected an invitation, though he called the school “a role model.”

There to hear him were plenty of television cameras but only a few parents, including one who happened to walk by while dropping her daughter off at Harlem Village Leadership Academy, and another who said she was asked to attend by a campaign worker she knows.

Rose Lopez, the parent who stumbled upon (and then joined) the press conference with her eighth grade daughter, said she was happy to support a mayoral candidate who wanted to add charter schools to the city, given the good experience her daughter has had at Harlem Village Academy.

“Maybe if I was in a charter school, I would be a nurse like I always wanted to be,” she said.

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