What makes the Harlem project especially interesting is that its budget is the same amount the city spends at its schools (the city gives charter schools 75 cents on the dollar; Greenblatt and Petry will make up the rest out of their own pockets). “P.S. 65 spends $12,500 per child without my $1,000,” he says. “What I’m trying to prove is that for the same money they’re spending in the city—not a $1,000 more—you can do what we’re doing at P.S. 65Q.”
Even if the Harlem school is as successful as P.S. 65Q, Greenblatt says that he doesn’t intend for every school in the city to do things his way overnight. But just as the mayor and other charter-school proponents aim to foster innovation that could be duplicated elsewhere (Bloomberg aims to add 75 charter schools in the next four years), Greenblatt hopes his experiments in education will act as a wedge. If he can produce excellence at one school—and another and another—with the same money the city uses to produce mediocrity, the public, he believes, will realize that there is a better way and begin insisting on it.
“If it can be replicated enough, people won’t be able to say this can’t be done,” he says. “The public schools will have to get better or public monies will have to be spent on other choices for students in failing school districts.” Then, he says, he’ll have leveraged the education marketplace. “They’ll either have to come up with another excuse, or they’ll have to fix the problem, too.”