New York City

Mayor de Blasio Visits a Charter School and Emerges Unscathed: Photo Op or Epiphany?

Here’s Mayor Bill de Blasio last month on New York City charter schools’ superior student proficiency levels compared to traditional NYC schools:

“If that’s where they put a lot of their time and energy, of course it could yield better test scores. But we don’t think that’s good educational policy,” he said in August. “We do not believe in a test-prep heavy model, we do not believe in excluding students with special needs and who are English Language Learners.”

Here’s Mayor Bill de Blasio yesterday during an actual visit to a charter school, KIPP Infinity Middle School in Harlem:

“I think it’s really exciting the way you’re leading this classroom,” de Blasio told [math teacher Jeff] Li in front of 29 eighth-graders and a handful of KIPP officials, including co-founder David Levin.

Are we witnessing a transformation? Has the Mayor eschewed his role as dummy to anti-choice ventriloquists? Has he leaped off the laps of UFT leaders?  Does he finally understand that charter schools are simply alternative public schools, as deserving of his support as traditional schools? Is he back-pedaling from earlier accusations that charters “cream off” top-performing students and turn their backs on kids with disabilities? Has he renounced his feud with Success Academy’s  Eva Moskowitz and Governor Cuomo regarding charter col-locations?

One lives in hope. After all, at KIPP Infinity Middle School 99% of students are Black or Hispanic, 85% qualify for free or reduced lunch (a measure of poverty), and  25% of students have disabilities. Yet student outcomes reflect the school’s philosophy developed by Dave Levin, whom Richard Whitmire, in his new book The Founders, describes as the guy who “cracked the code on effective teaching and then shared with anyone who asked.”

Poverty is not destiny. Low-income kids can be successful college graduates.

To wit, on last year’s state tests, 74% of KIPP Infinity kids were proficient in math and 54% were proficient in reading. (Across the city, 38% of kids were proficient in reading and 36.4% were proficient in math.)

This is where I get lost. How can de Blasio oppose options for families who can’t afford to live in high-achieving neighborhoods or navigate the city’s labyrinthine admissions process for specialized schools? And, concurrently, how can Hillary Clinton chant anti-charter union mantras, Lamb Chop to AFT’s Shari Lewis, while Trump — dear Lord, even Trump! — salutes school choice?

Kudos to de Blasio for showing up at a charter school in Harlem that serves NYC’s most under-served children. Now let’s see if his appearance was a photo op or an epiphany.

What do you think?

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