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Mayoral Candidate De Blasio Takes Aim at NYC Charter Schools

NYC Leaders Hold Press Conf. Urging New Iranian President To Carry Out Reforms

Bill de Blasio, the odds-on favorite to become New York City’s next Mayor, has declared war on the city’s charter schools. Yesterday, thousands of charter school teachers and students marched on the Brooklyn Bridge to protest his promise that, if elected, he would no longer let charter schools use empty or underused public school buildings rent free. The amounts involved aren’t small beans: the city’s budget office has estimated that this would force charters to pay an additional $2,400 per student, in a city that has 70,000 charter students. As the New York Times reports, de Blasio’s charter school agenda isn’t just about milking them for revenue; he wants to stop their growth entirely:

“We have the right amount now to foster a certain amount of innovation and competition,” he said on Tuesday.

New York City can add as many as 66 more before it reaches the maximum allowed under a 2010 state law. The state oversees the creation of charter schools, but Mr. de Blasio could make New York City a difficult environment for any new schools to find a footing.

We reject de Blasio’s misguided crusade. The goal of a city’s education policy should be to provide the best possible education to students, using whatever system works best. While the jury is still out on whether and which kinds of charter schools perform better than their traditional counterparts, early studies suggest that poor and minority students have enjoyed big gains in part because of charter schools. Declaring war on this doesn’t strike us as a smart policy.

[Bill de Blasio photo courtesy of Getty Images]

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  • wigwag

    “We reject de Blasio’s misguided crusade” (Via Meadia)

    I’m not exactly sure who the “we” is, but if the “we” Professor Mead is referring to is the royal “we,” then, as a New York voter, he will have the opportunity to express himself at the ballot box next month.

    The problem for the Professor is manifest; he keeps telling us that charter schools are enormously popular and that they represent at least a partial solution to the difficulties faced by urban districts.

    I guess he got that one wrong. The parents who he claims are clamoring for more charter schools are about to provide their votes in overwhelming numbers to the mayoral candidate who is most hostile to charter schools.

    In fact, they have already done so. In the Democratic Primary, de Blasio was far and away the candidate who expressed the least enthusiasm for charter schools. In fact, the United Federation of Teachers supported William Thompson who was at least somewhat more supportive of charters than de Blasio was.

    Yet poor parents, exactly the same people Professor Mead insists love charter schools, turned out for de Blasio in huge numbers. He won far more votes than Thompson, the candidate with the next largest number of Democratic Primary votes.

    In the general election, voters have a clear choice; they can vote for de Blasio who is hostile to charter schools or his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota, who enthusiastically supports charters.

    According to the most recent polling, the charter-hating de Blasio leads the charter- loving Lhota by a whopping 50 percent.
    Could it be that poor parents with kids in urban public schools don’t love charter schools quite as much as Professor Mead thinks they should?

    • Parker O’Brien

      Or, perhaps, his other policy preferences trump his distain for charters in the minds of his supporters.

      • wigwag

        Which other policy preferences are you referring to? His love of the Sandinistas?

      • Athelstane

        Which is almost certainly the explanation for what we’re seeing.

        A vote for a candidate is not an endorsement for all of his explanations. Especially in local races, where ignorance of all of a candidate’s positions is likely to be much higher.

        • wigwag

          Maybe, maybe not. In any local election, education is always at the top of the list of what people care about along with safe streets. It’s a safe bet that the policies espoused by mayoral candidates that voters pay most attention to includes the candidates views on education.
          The fact that de Blasio is skeptical of charters while Lhota loves them has been addressed in all three major local newspapers.
          It’s easy to chalk all this up to the accusation that these are “low-information” voters. Here’s a newsflash; being poor doesn’t make you a low information voter.
          It is far more likely that these voters simply disagree with the position articulated by Joe Lhota and Walter Russell Mead that charters are a positive development.
          None of this tells us anything substantively about whether charter schools are more or less effective than other schools. What it does tell us is that Professor Mead’s thesis that the public is clamoring for more charters is almost surely wrong; at least in New York City.
          It’s remarkable really; the teachers union supported a candidate in the primary who was generally supportive of charter schools while disadvantaged New York voters overwhelmingly backed a candidate who is suspicious of charters,
          You can pretend its all a coincidence if you want to.
          But you know it isn’t.

          • Rol_Texas

            I’m really surprised that your asking everyone here to believe that de Blasio’s supporters have charter schools at the forefront of their minds in considering their votes. You don’t really believe that, do you?

          • wigwag

            I think that when voters decide who to cast their ballots for in a mayoral election, education is one of the two or three issues that they think about.

            de Blasio is hostile to charter schools; hardly anyone seems to care. If the enthusiasm for charter schools was as strong as Professor Mead has suggested, de Blasio might not be ahead by 50 percentage points.

            de Blasio’s overwhelming lead must be related to several factors not just one factor. But the idea that voters passionately favor charter schools but are voting for de Blasio anyway, just doesn’t compute.

          • Rol_Texas

            I don’t understand why you find this point—”the idea that voters passionately favor charter schools but are voting for de Blasio anyway, just doesn’t compute”—so hard to fathom. As you pointed out, education is one issue, and attitude toward charter schools is a sub-issue issue within that issue.

            I generally like charter schools, but it’s not a litmus test kind of issue within education. I might be strongly encouraged to go with de Blasio on education based on the sole basis that he was *not* the teacher unions’ favored candidate. Charters, after all, are just a single item in an overall basket of school reform—and it’s not like he’s vowing to stamp them out utterly, just to restrict their growth.

            Anyway, no one has to accept your contention or my refusal to believe in it; there’s lots of polling out there on this question.

          • wigwag

            The teachers union supported the candidate who was more supportive of charters than the candidate that won demolishing another of the favorite narratives of those who think teachers unions blindly oppose all change for selfish reasons.

            Don’t get me wrong; I don’t like de Blasio and might vote for Lhota. Nor is the teachers union blameless. They helped set up the Working Families Party that helped empower de Blasio.

            I am certainly not saying that tge NYC election is a referendum on charters, but that doesn’t mean its irrelevant either.

            Most parents simply don’t think charters are important enough to change their votes.

            Charter advocates se to support charters more than hundreds of thousands of parents with kids in New York public schools.

    • S.C. Schwarz

      Interestingly, when NYC voters are polled about the policies De Blasio espouses, such as shutting down charter schools, ending stop and frisk, or firing Ray Kelly as police commissioner, they disagree with De Blasio on all those things. Nevertheless, as the OP says, they overwhelmingly support De Blasio for mayor because he is “looking out for the rest of us.” I am not getting this from Fox News, but from the NY Times of 4 Oct 2013. (Poll Finds Support for de Blasio, if Not for All His Ideas).

      Ah, the wonders of the low information voter.

    • Loader2000

      mmmm….charter schools are only one issue, the public teacher’s union is very powerful and, most likely, most students don’t go to charter schools and maybe don’t even have the opportunity to do so. That means that most voters may not feel like they have a stake in the charter school experiment one way or another in NYC. In other words, the election may or MAY NOT be a referendum on charter schools. If at least 50% of students actually went to charter schools, and a large percentage of them came from democratic voting families, that would be a different story. I

    • USNK2

      The NYC mayoral primary had 22% turnout for the Dems, and 40% voted for deBlasio, which is not an overwhelming number of voters. It does represent the GOTV power of the Working Families Party and SEIU versus the established neighborhood Dem Clubs, and other unions.
      The recent polling is surprising, but, at this stage, more of a measure of how Bloomberg managed to tarnish the GOP brand in NYC.
      The three debates are coming Oct. 15, 22, & 29.
      The real question will be how many of the 4.3 million registered voters will realize the stark choice: mostly about the NYPD, and the fiscal bombs, e.g. retroactive pay increases once the next mayor finally negotiates new union contracts.
      I also believe the polls will shift once all the citizens of NYC from the Dominican, Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico, question the judgment of why the deBlasios just had to honeymoon in Cuba instead :)

      oh, charter schools will not be the defining issue.

  • Parker O’Brien

    Comon’ now this is a man who flew to Nicaragua to support the Marxist Sandinistas in the late 1980s’ after numerous documentations of their brutal human rights violations; mass executions, ethnic cleansings, etc. He has no problem overlooking the negative side effects of his ideology so long as the ideological crusade is advanced. In other words, is it any surprise?

  • Laurence Levin

    The latest edition of the American Economic Review (one of the top Economics journals) has an article on Charter Schools:

    (2)
    Explaining Charter School Effectiveness
    Joshua D. Angrist, Parag A. Pathak and Christopher R. Walters

    Lottery estimates suggest Massachusetts’ urban charter schools boost achievement well
    beyond that of traditional urban public schools students, while nonurban charters reduce achievement from a higher baseline. The fact that urban charters are most effective for poor nonwhites and low-baseline achievers contributes to, but does not fully explain, these differences. We therefore
    link school-level charter impacts to school inputs and practices. The relative efficacy of urban lottery sample charters is accounted for by these schools’ embrace of the No Excuses approach to urban education. In our
    Massachusetts sample, Non-No-Excuses urban charters are no more effective
    than nonurban charters.

    De Blasio is another left-wing politicians who say they are pro poor but not if it offends their more important constituencies.

  • crabtown

    He’s going to have to close those empty schools.

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