bill de blasio's new york

Mayor de Blasio vs. Charter Schools, Round I

New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio speaks at a press conference announcing his traffic safety plan for the city on February 18, 2014 in New York City. The new plan, known as
Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Meanwhile, in news about real kids who are currently enrolled in the city’s public schools, not kids who might be pre-K students someday: Mayor Bill de Blasio is rescinding three of the 17 charter-school plans previously approved by the Bloomberg administration. To the de Blasio camp, this is a judicious, well-reasoned course correction. To Eva Moskowitz, who runs the only three schools being completely rejected, the decision is a politically motivated vendetta.

That de Blasio and Moskowitz are bitter antagonists is not new: As a candidate, de Blasio used his harshest language to attack her and the Success Academies she’s created. Moskowitz wasted no time escalating the battle, staging a pro-charter protest march across the Brooklyn Bridge in October, a month before de Blasio was officially elected mayor.

Today’s decision, officially announced by schools chancellor Carmen Farina, says that all the school plans were judged on four points, two of which seem highly subjective: whether a school with less than 250 students could supply enough support services, and whether too much construction was required to accommodate the co-location. The other two criteria appear more reasonable: Whether the plan would have put elementary-school kids on a high-school campus, and whether it would have reduced the number seats for special-ed students.

That 14 of the 17 charter plans cleared those hurdles shows de Blasio and Farina weren’t making the calls on strictly ideological grounds — though the mayor’s own statement, in saying he was “rejecting those proposals that do not meet our values,” basically admitted this wasn’t a purely objective process either.

Moskowitz will howl that the mayor is making her an example to score political points. She isn’t entirely wrong. Today’s moves enable the mayor to say he’s followed through on a campaign promise, one that will be cheered by Moskowitz’s enemies, and his allies, in the teachers’ union. But de Blasio approved five of Moskowitz’s eight proposed expansions. And it’s her own very aggressive tactics that have made her vulnerable, particularly to charges that Success Academy’s scores were boosted by pushing out weaker students.

Oh, right, we’re forgetting the kids. Plenty of uncontroversial charter schools are doing a good job of educating them, and the movement as a whole has injected a badly needed experimental energy into the public school system. Some of the movement’s advocates are interpreting today’s moves as encouraging — that de Blasio has shown he’s not rigidly opposed to charters. True, but he’s also given no indication he wants to provide new money or real estate so they can expand beyond this final Bloomberg batch. Meanwhile, 600 kids, including those at one Harlem’s best-performing middle schools, suddenly need to make new plans for next fall.

Mayor de Blasio vs. Charter Schools, Round I