Charter schools, schools that receive public funding but operate as independent entities, first began to bloom in New York City during the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Thousands of New Yorkers, sick of the overstretched and ineptly-led public school system, embraced the new era of choice. Organizations like the Success Academy have been opening new schools, in both private and public premises, with astonishing speed, yet they have not been able to keep up with galloping demand. Many places last year had to be allocated by lottery. The demand for and support of charter schools is beyond questioning, as The Economist points out:
“Demand for charter-school places outstrips available slots; entry is by lottery, and some 50,000 children are on waiting lists. Before the election, 20,000 parents, children, and teachers marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall in support of charter schools.”
The success of the charter school movement in New York is not merely a matter of demand. It is a matter of results. Staggering results, in fact. Children who attend charter schools benefit from better teaching, and are shown to outperform their public school peers across the board. Many underprivileged children from minority backgrounds with traditionally subpar academic performances have, in charter school environments, closed and in some cases reversed the age-old performance gap.
Charter schools offer many cities a palatable mechanism for offering greater choice to families in the field of education. They do take some public funding, and they often rely on state infrastructure to operate, but these qualities ought to be weighed against the alternative, which is incompetent and corrupt state monopoly of education, especially in cities with greater percentages of low-income households. The existence of choice alone has helped revitalize competition in one of the most sclerotic and venal arms of the government apparatus. With the proven enhanced performance, wide popularity, and general social improvements charter schools provide it would seem like a no-brainer for city government to support them.
Yet in New York City, the new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has been waging all-out war against the burgeoning charter school movement. Almost from the moment of taking office in January, Mayor de Blasio has been cutting funding, restricting approval of new charters, and blocking use by charters of public school facilities. The result has been to rob many children of a brighter future they might have gained from a competent educational system.
The reason to de Blasio’s madness is quite simple: teachers’ unions. De Blasio ran for mayor on a platform of returning to pre-Bloomberg norms in New York, a New York he portrayed through rose-tinted glasses as having been more fair and equitable, as a world in which the government took care of its citizens. The problem with that picture, which New York’s voters sadly swallowed, is that it is a complete fabrication. The old New York de Blasio is reviving with gusto was one rife with corruption, a city run to serve the interest of public-service insiders, not the people. Thus it is no surprise that de Blasio has decided to crack down on charter schools, one of the most potent demonstrations, by means of contrast, of the total ineptitude of public schools.
Public school teachers’ unions have long fought against the establishment of any kind of performance standard. Apparently teaching quality cannot be “accurately measured” in any empirical way, so we should allow the unions to make those decisions for us. Apparently, their more holistic approach has led to the conclusion that seniority ought to determine all pay and promotions, and that no one should ever be fired. It is strange that that conclusion has not been reached by any of the thousands of public and private organizations that do consider things like performance standards to be worth evaluating.
The sad truth is that Mayor de Blasio is robbing children of their futures in order to placate the crooked unions he relied on to get elected. His actions are the grossest kind of selfishness, destroying young lives and turning his city back toward oblivion, all while claiming to be leading a return to “fairness”.