The one thing Joe Biden, Mayor Bill deBlasio, New York City schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew, the NYC president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), have in common: they all hate charter schools.
And to understand why they are determined to destroy those schools, Dr. Thomas Sowell's Charter Schools and Their Enemies, is must reading.
The 90-year-old Sowell, an African-American who grew up in Harlem and earned degrees from Harvard, Columbia and the University of Chicago, is one of the nation's leading social scientists, the author of 40 books, and a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institute.
In his new book, Sowell focuses on public education in my hometown, New York City.
Charter schools, Sowell reminds readers, are public schools created by an act of the New York State Legislature.
What makes them different is that charter schools are "freed from some of the rigidities of the regular public schools and allowed to receive government support so long as its students' educational outcomes met various education criteria."
The driving idea behind charter schools is that low-income parents should have the same privilege of wealthy parents: to take their children out of failing public schools and to enroll them in schools that have better educational results.
Sowell analyzes New York City's 2017-2018 school year, when charter schools were educating 23,000 students chosen by lottery, and over 90% of the students were minorities and more than 50,000 children were on waiting lists.
While 65 charter schools are housed in the same building as traditional public schools and have similar racial profiles, the difference in the results of the 2018 standardized New York State Educational Department's English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics exams were astounding.
In 65% of the grade levels tested in ELA, "a majority of the charter school students scored at the 'proficient' level or above." In the traditional schools located in the same buildings, only in "14 percent of those grade levels, a majority of the students scored 'proficient' and above levels on the ELA tests." The "proficiency" disparity was approximately 5 to 1.
As for the mathematics exam, 68% of charter school children scored at a "proficient" level or higher. In the regular school, 10% had a majority of their students hitting the "proficient" level or above. In mathematics, the "proficiency" disparity was about 7 to 1.
Because charter schools are not only outperforming traditional public schools but taking education dollars from the city's budget, they are, Sowell notes, a threat out of proportion to their student body size "to a whole way of life in the much larger traditional public-school system."
Hence, disgruntled union leaders have been pressuring elected officials to erect roadblocks to prevent existing charter schools from pursuing their mission.
The UFT and Democratic elected officials have directed their venom at the most successful charter school network in Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and the South Bronx, the Success Academy Charter School led by founder Eva Moskowitz.
When running for mayor in 2013, Bill deBlasio told a UFT forum, "It's time for Eva Moskowitz to stop having the run of the place. … She has to stop being tolerated, enabled, supported."
To achieve that end, deBlasio tried, but failed, to prevent Success Academy from getting empty space in public schools.
DeBlasio then schemed to charge Success Academy rent for the classrooms occupied in public schools. To head him off, Moskowitz led 10,000 people to Albany in March 2014 to protest the move.
Seeing the peaceful protestors from his office window, Gov. Andrew Cuomo descended the steps of the state capitol and told the assembled parents, "You are not alone! We will save charter schools!"
And he did.
The governor engineered a bill through the Legislature that prevented the city from charging rent to charter schools.
The fact that charter schools have succeeded in educating children does not matter to teacher unions. They prefer to follow the maxim of Albert Shanker, the long-time head of the UFT back in the 1960s and 1970s: "When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children."
If Joe Biden is elected president in November, expect charter schools to face even more roadblocks.
In a July address to the delegates of the National Education Association, Biden announced, that as president, "teachers will have more to say in how education decisions are made." He pledged, "This is going to be a teacher-oriented Department of Education, and it's not going to come from the top down — it's going to come from the teacher's up."
Let's see, in a Biden administration the teachers will come first, not the interests of the students.
Unfortunately, that governing ideology will not bode well for the hundreds of thousands of minority children in charter schools who are closing the education gap between themselves and their white counterparts.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." He is chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA. Mr. Marlin also writes for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read George J. Marlin's Reports — More Here.
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