March 11 2014
Remember the award-winning 2010 documentary Waiting for “Superman,” which examined the failures of the American public education system?
The acclaimed film highlighted the stellar achievements of New York’s Harlem Success Academy, a charter school that chooses students by lottery.
Competition to attend Success and similar schools is stiff because parents and kids recognize that a good education can set a child on an upward trajectory in life.
Thus it is sad that it was newly-minted New York Mayor Bill de Blasio instead of Superman who showed up at these schools.
The mayor, as you no doubt know, is trying to run some of the city’s best charter schools out of Dodge for ideological reasons.
Oh—yeah—and also the teachers’ union, a prime source of financial support for Democrats such as Mr. de Blasio, wants these schools to vanish.
In a column headlined “De Blasio vs. Minority Children,” Mona Charen writes:
Mayor de Blasio bulldozed into office swearing to take aim at the privileged and defend the powerless. If you know anything about leftists, you won’t be surprised that he is actually training his fire on the poorest and most vulnerable.
Remember that one of Barack Obama’s first acts was to attack the school-choice program in the District of Columbia. De Blasio is calling for a moratorium on the placement of charter schools within public-school buildings (many are co-located), and proposes that charter schools be required to pay rent.
He has also unilaterally revoked a promise of space made by his predecessor to three new charters associated with the Harlem Success Academy, leaving 700 students out in the cold. Autumn Elvy, an eight-year-old charter student, told the New York Daily News that she had a message for the mayor: “Stop being mean to charter schools because it’s not fair.”
It is universally-acknowledged that education helps people escape poverty. It is almost universally acknowledged that charter schools have found ways to provide an excellent education and thus opportunities for kids whose parents can’t afford to send them to private schools. As Charen notes, even the liberal New Yorker realizes that Success Academy is a success:
Last year, 64 percent of Harlem’s 3rd graders [at Success] passed the state English exam and 88 percent passed the state math exam. At P.S. 123 . . . which is located in the same school building . . . only 18 percent of students passed the English test and only 5 percent passed the math test.
Several education experts maintain that rather than hurting the public schools charter schools such as Success Academy actually help them by providing competition. Maybe the teachers’ union is more interested in cushy benefits and tenure than in working hard to improve teaching skills? Just a thought.
Here’s an irony: public education in this country is in deep trouble, and charter schools have by and large come up with a way to solve many of the educational ills that plague our society and set many kids on the path to poverty. And the supposed advocates of the poor want to stop charter schools—right now!
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has national ambitions, is throwing down the gauntlet to de Blasio on this issue. And that, as Charen comments, is a good thing:
That Democrats are beginning to fight over this question is encouraging. Republicans haven’t focused on it, perhaps thinking it doesn’t affect their voters, very few of whom live in cities. That’s shortsighted. This is a moral issue. No one in public life should avoid it. Besides, it betrays the cold brutality of some Democrats who claim to speak for the poor.
If you put “charter schools” or “school choice” in IWF’s search bar, you’ll see that we have been on this issue for years.
Nancy, we IWFers see kids in need of a break rather than teachers unions in need of political patronage.
If President Obama and the Democrats are serious about income inequality, they’ll reconsider their opposition to charter schools.