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Cuomo, powerful lawmakers to attend charter school rally

The large charter school rally happening in Albany today has been pegged by critics as divisive, but it has attracted a bipartisan slate of state lawmakers — as well as Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo’s attendance had been rumored but was not confirmed until an hour before his appearance. His name was not on a list distributed by event organizers and forwarded to Chalkbeat, but the state Senate’s co-leaders, Jeff Klein, who heads the Independent Democratic Conference, and Republican Dean Skelos, are on the agenda to give remarks.

Klein and Skelos are also set to meet later in the day with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is in town pushing his prekindergarten tax plan.

First up to speak at the charter rally, according to the list, is Assemblyman Karim Camara, a Brooklyn Democrat who has been an outspoken supporter of the charter school sector. As chairman of the legislature’s 37-member Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian caucus, he also is seen to wield some influence in state government.

Also set to speak from the Assembly are Democrats Robert Rodriguez, of East Harlem, and Crystal People-Stokes, of Buffalo. Senate Education Chair John Flanagan, a Republican from Long Island and Democrat Adriano Espaillat, who represents upper and western Manhattan, round out the list of scheduled speakers.

In all, that’s two Republicans and five Democrats. Advocates are pushing the legislature to give charter schools some insurance, through funding or legislative action, that they can operate in districts without having to pay for facility costs out of their per-pupil budgets. Cuomo, Skelos, and Camara have all said that they support the idea.

De Blasio and his supporters, who are hosting their own separate event in Albany today to push their pre-K tax plan, have criticized the rally as a divisive tactic to take attention away from his administration’s top legislative priority, which Cuomo opposes.

The charter school rally will begin around 11:30, with elected officials set to start speaking a little after noon. De Blasio is set to deliver his remarks at noon as well, just a few blocks down the street inside the Washington Armory. Afterward, he’ll meet with Klein, Skelos, Senate Democratic Conference leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.