Parents, students and educators who favor charter schools marched over the Brooklyn Bridge Tuesday morning to protest two proposals from mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio that would include paying rent and moratoriums on co-locations. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
It was designed to be a show of force, the type of force that's colorful, cheerful and kid-friendly.
Organizers say 17,000 charter school supporters showed up Tuesday morning. Why?
"To march the Brooklyn Bridge 'cause we need new schools," said one young student at the protest.
"Parents have to make that choice," said another.
The first marchers began crossing before 9 a.m. More than three hours later, they were still coming.
While students placed self-portraits in front of the Department of Education, their message was aimed at the next administration.
"Parents who feel like they've benefited from Mayor Bloomberg's policies would like to see them continued," said Sharhonda Bossier of Families for Excellent Schools.
Their specific concern is with mayoral front-runner Bill de Blasio, who has said he'll be less friendly toward the publicly funded, privately managed charter schools.
"The next mayor has a choice," said one parent at the march.
De Blasio has said that he'll start requiring charter schools to pay rent if they want to use space in public school buildings, which charter supporters say could put some of them out of business.
"We deserve the right for free space in a public school building," said one parent at the march.
Asked about it after the march, de Blasio didn't back down.
"I won't favor charters the way the Bloomberg administration did, and I think that's fair," he said.
In the past decade, the number of charter schools in the city has jumped from 17 to 183.
Republican nominee Joseph Lhota has said he would double that. His wife and daughter participated in Tuesday's march, and he met up with them and charter school supporters by City Hall.
"Many of them have come up to me and said, 'I'm a Democrat, but I'm voting for you because of my position on charter schools,'" Lhota said.
Charters remain controversial. Marchers were also greeted by a small counter-protest.
About 70 schools participated in the event. They'd come under fire for canceling class for what many considered a political march. The schools defended it. They called it a civics lesson and, with the schools' survival potentially at stake, a worthy enough cause.