You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

TAUBE: Bill de Blasio’s wrong school choice

- - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Most Americans strongly support delivering the highest quality of education to our children. This is not and has never been a left-wing or right-wing idea.

When the discussion shifts to the sensible topic of school choice, it usually turns into a highly charged ideological battlefield between Democrats and Republicans. This only serves to hurt the students that politicians supposedly want to help.

The most significant opposition to school choice has historically come from left-wing Democrats. This group claims to be the champions of the poor and disenfranchised. They're the ones who scream the loudest when inner-city black and Hispanic students receive substandard education levels.

Yet if you mention school vouchers and tuition tax credits as possible solutions, these Democrats transform into screaming banshees. They claim it's nothing more than a Republican plot to drive a stake through public education's heart.

The Democratic argument against school choice may be complete rubbish, but they're constantly (and predictably) twisting the narrative to their advantage.

Take New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. This ultra-left-wing politician and public-education advocate has little no taste for, believe it or not, public charter schools. One of his primary targets has been Success Academy, which runs some charter schools with public funding to give low-income families (usually from minority groups) a chance at a better education.

In particular, Success Academy Harlem 4 students have earned some of the best math scores in the whole state. Mr. De Blasio doesn't care, however. He's troubled by the fact the charter school gets its space rent-free — and wants to close it down.

Students at New York City public charter schools make up roughly 6 percent of its entire education system. Yet this small group of children from low-income and minority families, the type of people who Mr. de Blasio claims to represent above all others, is the target of his wrath.

To their credit, some Democrats are fed up with Mr. de Blasio's position — and are speaking out.

Juan Williams, a liberal political analyst for Fox News, firmly believes "Bill de Blasio is the best thing to ever happen to the school choice movement" because it's helped mobilize school choice advocates like never before. Mr. Williams wrote on Foxnews.com that "11,000 parents, teachers and students took to the barricades to protest de Blasio's scheme to crush charter schools in front of the New York State Capitol in Albany," and it "has also succeeded in getting fellow Democrat, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.), hardly a right-winger, to stand up for charter schools."

In the United States, there are "huge racial gaps in academic achievement, including the near 50 percent dropout rate for black students; 32 percent for Hispanics; 20 percent whites; and 19 percent of Asians." As Mr. Williams correctly noted, "According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 30 percent of U.S. public school graduates have to take a remedial class before they can do basic college work."

Rather, the mayor's "sole concern is paying back the powerful New York City public school teachers' unions for their political support" since they "hate charter schools because they provide parents with an option to remove their children from the bad public schools that are staffed by their members."

This is in spite of the fact charter schools have greatly improved student results.

As Manhattan Institute's Marcus A. Winters wrote in a March 12 op-ed for the New York Daily News, "Three studies — one by Stanford economist Caroline Hoxby and two by Harvard economist Roland Fryer and Princeton economist Will Dobbie — compared the achievement of kids attending one of New York City's charters to those of kids who applied to a charter but were denied a seat through a random lottery." These three papers "found that students benefited substantially from attending a New York City charter school. The city's charter school opponents willfully ignore these papers, two of which have been published in a prestigious academic journal."

Mr. de Blasio is wrong. Public charter schools, like school vouchers and tuition tax credits, is a help up, not a hand out, for poor families. School choice, be it public or private, provides all children with a means of escaping poverty and finding a route to education success — and, in turn, financial success.

I think Mr. Williams is on to something. The fight for school choice has long been a bumpy road, but a left-wing, out-of-touch mayor may have inadvertently smoothed it for future generations.

Michael Taube is a contributor to The Washington Times.