Abram Olmstead  | January 10, 2014

Is NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Putting Charter Schools on the Chopping Block?

“I simply wouldn’t favor charters the way Mayor Bloomberg did because, in the end, our city rises or falls on our traditional public schools,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a debate just before his landslide election.

He wouldn’t? Charter schools have experienced dramatic success, growing from 17 schools in 2002 to 183 today. Demand has grown equally rapidly, with 69,000 families applied for just 18,600 slots last year.

Today on the uschamber.com blog, writer David Kinkade looks at de Blasio’s agenda:

Bill de Blasio’s ascent to the New York City mayor’s office was fueled by the liberal councilman’s promise to tackle inequality in the city. But in at least one respect, de Blasio’s agenda could result in the rolling back of one powerful tool for increasing opportunity—the city’s charter schools.

The Washington Post’s January 3 editorial responded to de Blasio’s education agenda with similar concerns: “Of all the ways to reduce inequality, none is more important than giving poor children access to good schools — including, but not limited to, pre-K. And of all the political forces that propelled Mr. de Blasio into office, none is less truly progressive than the backlash against school reform.”

Kinkade goes on to say:

DeBlasio’s anti-charter school message should serve as a dark reminder to school reform proponents that the effort to expand school choice and improve student outcomes is bound to meet stiff resistance from those seeking to protect the status quo. A similar dynamic is at work in the ongoing effort to organize charter school employees’ into teachers unions, a movement that began picking up steam in 2013.

What might sway de Blasio toward greater openness to school choice? Perhaps the new mayor should talk to some of the New York parents who have placed their children’s names on the city’s charter school waiting list, which now numbers an estimated 50,000.

Or perhaps de Blasio could consult with the man who swore him into office, former President Bill Clinton, who has been an enthusiastic supporter of charter schools both as president and in his post-presidency. Receiving a lifetime achievement award from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in 2011, Clinton offered words of encouragement to school choice supporters: “You’ve got to keep this country in the change business.”

It remains to be seen whether de Blasio will decide to keep New York schools in the change business—but observers agree the early signs are less than encouraging.

For the full story, click over to the uschamber.com blog.