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New York City Mayor’s Attack on Charter Schools Enough to Give Me Nightmares

As a rule, my parents aren’t too keen on letting little me watch any horror movies. Too much violence, gore, and just plain scary stuff. But they haven’t been able to shield my eyes from the horror that is the new mayor of New York City’s attack on successful public charter schools and the students they are helping.

The elected head of America’s largest city wasted no time in going after charters, apparently out of some belief that they represent some sort of corporate conspiracy rather than a means of improving results for many, many students. He has cut charter facility funding from the city budget and axed new charter proposals built on existing successful models.

Mayor de Blasio’s school chancellor Carmen farina wiped her hands of the situation, callously stating: “They’re charter schools. They’re on their own now.” My attention was brought to this disturbing issue by yesterday’s impassioned Chicago Tribune editorial saying a similar debate needs to be brought into the open:

This is not a bloodless bureaucratic turf battle, here or in New York. It’s a conflict that denies opportunity to many students.

Where I come from, being mean to someone just because they’re a little different — maybe because they’re not heavily influenced by unions, or because they’re more accountable to parents than they are to the city’s bureaucracy — isn’t smiled upon. Given the fact that 63 percent of NYC charter schools outperform their district counterparts, one might even describe the attack as a sign of jealousy.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan described de Blasio as an “ideologue” and “politically vicious.” It’s awfully hard to disagree with that statement. She notes that the Success Academy, which particularly has felt the heat of de Blasio’s wrath, has an 82 percent success rate on the city math exam, compared to a district average of 30 percent.

I am encouraged to know that we here in Colorado are largely exempt from this kind of anti-charter attack. While misguided and poorly informed opposition exists, especially in some suburban school districts, Denver and other places have embraced giving families more public options.

And the idea owns broad support among both elected Democrats and Republicans. Such bipartisan support helped to pass the original charter law in 1993, as outlined in my Education Policy Center friends’ fabulous paper On the Road of Innovation.

I close with a quick memo to New York City and its leaders: Why not work to find a way to help kids learn more, rather than try to destroy what’s working better? If the mayor is going to have a hateful and obstinate attitude about this issue, here’s hoping others with resources rally around to help support these students and schools in their time of need.

Because I (and my poor parents) really could do without the screaming nightmares….