Bill DeBlasio’s victory in the New York City mayor’s race signifies a shift in that school district’s policies on public education. While Mayor Bloomberg has been a leader and spokesperson of the national movement for “corporatized school reform”—rapid expansion of charter schools—extensive closures of traditional schools, especially comprehensive high schools—co-location of charter and public schools in the same buildings— DeBlasio has instead spoken firmly for improving traditional public school across the city.
According to the New York Times, “Mr. DeBlasio would significantly overhaul one of the Bloomberg administration’s principal legacies: the A-through-F grading system for schools.” The New York Daily News reported that “De Blasio wants to focus on fixing traditional public schools and has proposed charging rent to charter schools located within those schools.”
On his campaign website, DeBlasio has identified a long list of public education priorities that include:
- Increasing taxes for those earning $500,000 or more to pay for universal pre-Kindergarten and for enriched after-school programs for all middle school students.
- Adding 100 full-service, wrap-around Community Schools such as the less than twenty now being modeled by the Children’s Aid Society. These are the schools that house medical, dental, and mental health clinics, parent education and support programs, Head Starts, and extensive after-school programs and transform the public schools into family and community centers.
- Seeking money owed New York City by the state under he Campaign for Fiscal Equity school funding remedy, to pay for reducing class size which has increased significantly in the past couple of years.
- Supporting struggling schools with resources and technical assistance instead of rushing to close them.
- Charging rent to charter schools according to their capacity to pay, especially the schools of the charter chains whose CEOs are paid annually in six figures.
- Involving the community when charters and traditional charters are being co-located.
- Providing state-mandated arts education taught by certified arts instructors for all children in the New York City Schools.
While the newly elected mayor does not oppose mayoral control of the public schools, he has said he would create new avenues to expand input from parents through the Community Education Councils and the Citywide Education Councils for particular issues such as high schools, special education, and English Language Learners.
What incoming Mayor DeBlasio has promised is a new direction for the public schools in New York City. For the sake of the children of New York and as a harbinger of broader rejection of “portfolio school reform” and privatization, it will be important to monitor the new mayor’s capacity to implement the changes he has promised.