[The legislation] would effectively create a parallel system of charter schools within the city, allowing “high-performing charter schools in good standing” to switch to join the State University of New York umbrella or the Board of Regents of the State Educational Department...Although the announcement of the agreement did not offer details, the Senate’s proposal would exempt SUNY schools from the usual state standards and free to set their own rules, two officials with direct knowledge of the negotiations.While Mayor de Blasio and his Schools Chancellor, Carmen Farina, have set benchmarks for improvements in long-struggling schools, many scoff at the lack of ambition. For example, one goal is that all children will read on grade-level by 2026, long after de Blasio is gone from office. Another example is that the goals set for the city’s lowest-performing schools, called “renewal schools,” are in some cases set so low that they had been met before the goals were announced. The New York Times reported that at John Adams High School in Ozone Park, Queens, the school’s college readiness index was supposed to hit 15.1 by 2016. But the score is already 20.2. It’s not too late for the mayor to turn this around. He could start by breaching the false dichotomy between traditional schools and charter schools, fostering partnership rather than rivalry. He could set higher goals for the city’s worst schools and be unafraid of closing down those that continue to fail their students. He can step out boldly and recreate himself as an educational leader in a city where a third of the students (80 percent of whom are Black or Hispanic), failed math and English tests this year and where this year, according to the New York City Education Department, failure rates in the worst schools went up, not down. Meanwhile, potential contenders are lining up. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. a prospective gubernatorial candidate in 2017, attended a pro-school choice rally last October in Brooklyn and said this to 18,500 parents:
Mr. Mayor, what we’re saying here today is this: The public-schools system is your system. Charter schools are a part of that system, and all we want from you, Mr. Mayor, is to treat them equitably.A battle’s been lost and time is short, but de Blasio can still redeem himself by committing to meaningful improvements in the city’s school system. To do so, he must respect parents’ vigorous cries for school choice and set ambitious goals for school improvement. This is his year to prove himself worthy of mayoral control. We’ll wait to see if he possesses the vision and leadership to regain the trust of New York City parents, educational leaders, and state legislators. While the de Blasio quest for long-term mayoral control may have failed this year, the city’s 1.1 million students may just come out ahead.
Laura Waters is the founder and managing editor of New Jersey Education Report, formerly a senior writer/editor with brightbeam. Laura writes about New Jersey and New York education policy and politics. As the daughter of New York City educators and parent of a son with special needs, she writes frequently about the need to listen to families and ensure access to good public school options for all. She is based in New Jersey, where she and her husband have raised four children. She recently finished serving 12 years on her local school board in Lawrence, New Jersey, where she was president for nine of those years. Early in her career, she taught writing to low-income students of color at SUNY Binghamton through an Educational Opportunity Program.
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