All de Blasio’s Children

by

New York’s mayor gives up control to block more charter schools.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio visits Amber Charter School in Manhattan in 2014.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio visits Amber Charter School in Manhattan in 2014. PHOTO: POOL/GETTY IMAGES

How much does New York Mayor Bill de Blasio hate charter schools? So much that this week he was willing to give up mayoral control of the city’s schools rather than allow an increase in the cap on the number of charter schools.

The state legislature gave mayoral control to Mr. de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, as a way to wrest school governance from the union-dominated school board. Mr. Bloomberg used it to good effect by expanding innovation and choice, including charter schools. Mayoral control lets voters hold a political leader accountable for the city’s education performance.

But Mr. de Blasio is a wholly owned subsidiary of the teachers union, so he has used mayoral control to erect barriers to charters at every opportunity. This includes denying them space that isn’t being used in other public schools. His hostility reached new heights on Wednesday when he let state legislators adjourn for their legislative session without renewing his authority rather than work out a deal that would allow more charters.

Charter schools already educate nearly one-tenth of New York City’s one million schoolchildren, and they include such stars as Success Academy that recently received the Broad Prize for the performance of its 14,000 students. The unions resent charters because they aren’t union-run—and thus throw off no union dues—and because their success proves that kids written off as unteachable can learn in the right environment.

In state test scores for 2015-16, for example, African-American and Hispanic charter students were more than twice as likely to be proficient in math than their peers in traditional public schools. Parents can see the results, which is why there is a waiting list of nearly 50,000 students to attend city charters.

The good news is that charters have allies in Albany who have kept a short leash on Mr. de Blasio’s control, extending it for one year in both 2015 and 2016. This year the GOP state Senate offered Mr. de Blasio control for as much as five years and proposed allowing 40% of the charter-school openings to be in New York City, as well as raising the state cap on charters to 510 from the current 460. Governor Andrew Cuomo has also battled Mr. de Blasio over charters and favors an increase in the charter cap.

As a candidate three years ago, Mr. de Blasio acknowledged the failures of public education in New York and declared that he’d be mayor for all children—those in “traditional public schools, in charter schools, in religious schools.” But now as he gears up for his January re-election campaign, he is doing the bidding of unions run by adults who fear nothing more than schools that might better educate students. The closing of the progressive mind never ceases to amaze.

Appeared in the June 23, 2017, print edition.

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