When I was a teenager, my dad exposed me to Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer,” which warns of the dangers of rigid ideology. We have seen it in the far right’s disdain of virtually all government programs and hatred for unions__and the hard left’s diametrically opposite outlook.
We are witnessing this rigidity in the latest NYC charter school battle. A steadily increasing number of such schools have been co-existing in public schools settings__until now.
Mayor de Blasio just reversed the approval of three such local schools, and has made it clear he’s no fan of the charter school concept.
“Right now, our kids are being evicted,” says Eva Moskowitz, who runs the Success Academy in the three schools that were axed. “You’re going to have to ask Mayor de Blasio what his motivations are for a decision that will hurt so many children.”
But de Blasio, the target of protests by over 10,000 charter schoolchildren and their parents Tuesday, was unbending. “We were handed a series of last minute moves by the Bloomberg administration approving a number of co-locations that we feel were ill-advised,” he said.
The teachers’ union was pleased with de Blasio’s response. “I’m glad the D.O.E. has taken an important first step in vetoing some particularly troublesome pending co-locations,” said UFT president Michael Mulgrew. The union is strongly against charter schools, not because they are unsuccessful but because they hire non-union teachers and don’t strictly adhere to union rules.
Charter schools that outperform the local public school alternatives offer a path to student success to inner city parents who can’t afford private schools. The fact that de Blasio didn’t target failing schools is telling.
For example, one of the programs losing its space is Success Academy’s Harlem 4, with student test scores that significantly exceeded both city and state averages.
But it’s no accident that de Blasio targeted Moskowitz’ three schools. Ex-city council member Moskowitz had the temerity not to vote for de Blasio as City Council speaker in 2002, and now de Blasio seems to be playing petty politics with her. Hasn’t he learned anything from how NJ Governor Chris Christie’s petty vendettas have moved him from a landslide victory just four months ago to fighting for his political life now?
De Blasio’s hard line puts him at odds with both Governor Cuomo and President Obama, who both support the growth of charter schools.
Are all charter schools successful? No. But it seems to me anything that works to help NYC schoolchildren, whether instituted in charter or conventional schools, is worth emulating. Unfortunately, sometimes those in charge refuse to listen.
Why is that? Hoffer nailed it, saying how the true believer always sees things in black and white according to a rigid ideology, and is “never baffled by contradictions__because he denies their existence.”
Can’t we take the good from both charter and traditional schools without demonizing either? How about it, Mayor de Blasio?