Out: Forcing minorities to endure humiliating, pointless stop-and-frisk treatment from New York City cops. In: Destroying minorities' public education opportunities by killing charter schools.
Have we already hit the "Miss me yet?" reformation stage of nanny jerk ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg? Perhaps among education reformists. Bloomberg may have been down on letting New Yorkers make choices about how much soda to drink, but he was a fan of school choice and charter schools.
Bill de Blasio is not so big of a fan. Toward the end of last week, de Blasio announced the city would not allow three new charter schools to share space with public school buildings. The agreements were backed by Bloomberg toward the end of his administration, but de Blasio isn't having it. From Fox News:
While dozens of charter schools' deals with the city remain unaffected, the four affected schools had already hired principals and teachers, and were in the process of recruiting pupils. In addition to the Harlem school, the move leaves in the cold two affiliated schools run by the nonprofit Success Academy Charter Schools, headed by de Blasio's former City Council colleague Eva Moskowitz.
"Explaining to students and families that they won't have a school next year is the most heartbreaking thing I've done at Success Academies," Moskowitz said in a statement. "No parent should have to go through this."
Charter schools do get a share of tax money to operate, but they don't get public funds to pay for locations or facilities. Thus, this sharing (or sometimes full school takeovers) is a way for charter schools to keep costs down, which helps make them more available and accessible to the poor. And the poor are the customers for these schools. Moskowitz isn't running some fly-by-night charter operation, either. Her Success Academy schools do well. New York Daily News notes:
Success Academy 4 children are 97% black and Hispanic. More than three quarters are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Even so, a stunning 96% of the school's kids passed the tough new state math exam. Fifty three percent passed the English exam — putting them in the top tier of all schools across the state. …
At nearby PS 76, 8% of kids passed their state math tests, and 6% in English. At nearby PS 149, 3% of kids passed in math, and 7% in English. At nearby Frederick Douglass 2, 3% of kids passed in math, and 9% in English.
De Blasio's attitude toward charter schools may make him the darling of the United Federation of Teachers, but it's putting him at odds with a growing number of Democratic leaders, including President Barack Obama, who praised a Harlem charter school in a recent speech promoting so-called "Promise Zones" for poor communities.
There's a well-publicized rift in the Republican Party on how they should approach social issues and pork-filled defense spending. But there's a much less publicized rift in the Democratic Party about charter schools, which despite what detractors connected to education unions say, are growing more and more popular among the parts of the Democratic base that don't work for the government (and even among some who do). The fight may not have broken the party open wide like what we're seeing among Republicans because the battles are taking place on the state and local levels. It's definitely a conflict to watch, though, as charter school popularity continues to grow.
If you feel like delving deep into school choice issues on this dismal Monday, watch Reason TV's recent hour-long panel discussion from National School Choice Week, featuring National School Choice Week President Andrew Campanella, Reason Foundation Director of Education Policy Lisa Snell, former Arizona Superintendent and education reformer Lisa Keegan, Pacific Research Foundation Educational Director Lance Izumi, and California Teachers' Empowerment Network founder Larry Sand: