De Blasio goes forth with education agenda

Stephon Johnson | 3/6/2014, 9:24 a.m.
Last week, the mayor axed plans by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to further expand Success Academy schools into public school ...
Bill de Blasio Photo by Bill Moore

Whether it’s charter schools or universal pre-K, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is stuck in a tug-of-war with powerful forces.

Last week, the mayor axed plans by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to further expand Success Academy schools into public school spaces. Run by de Blasio’s longtime political rival Eva Moskowitz, the charter school originally planned on moving into the August Martin High School complex in Jamaica, Queens, and Murry Bergtraum High School in lower Manhattan. The mayor also put the kibosh on a plan to expand Success Academy Middle School to P.S. 149 in Harlem.

“We made clear from the outset we would carefully review all of the proposals rushed through in the waning days of the past administration,” de Blasio said in a statement last week.

Moskowtiz wasn’t happy with the news. She’s already threatened to sue de Blasio if he follows through on his plans. 

Of the 45 colocation proposals that the Department of Education (DOE) decided on last week, nine were reversed. Three of the charter-related reversals involved Moskowtiz’s Success Academies.

“It is an historic step for the mayor to propose reversing colocations, and he has focused in on some of the most damaging ones,” said Zakiyah Ansari, the advocacy director for the Alliance for Quality Education. “For those that are not reversed, we expect the Department of Education to follow through on their commitment to take a new approach of responsiveness, collaboration and a genuine understanding of how students are affected.”

Even Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., has thrown his opinion into the ring, accusing de Blasio of “waging a war against children.” But people like United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew are standing in de Blasio’s corner.

“I’m glad the DOE has taken an important first step in vetoing some particularly troublesome pending colocations,” said Mulgrew in a statement.

Ansari called de Blasio’s decision good governing.

“This is good education policy and an uplifting start to bring fairness and equity to our schools,” said Ansari. “Although there are arguments to be made for having reversed many more inherited colocations on the table, it is clear that the administration used fair and objective criteria to make this decision.”

Charter school debates aren’t the only thing de Blasio’s wrestling with in education. Recently, more than a dozen elected officials trekked through the city streets and collected petition signatures to continue to build support for New York City’s plan for universal pre-K and expanded after-school programs.

“New York City is ready to make universal pre-K and after-school [programs] for middle school students a reality,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in a statement. “New Yorkers are behind this plan, the New York City Council is behind this plan, and today we are out organizing across the city with a simple message: Albany, let us do it.”

De Blasio’s plan involves providing access to universal pre-K for all 4-year-olds for the first time in New York City’s history. Currently, according to the de Blasio administration, 53,767 children receive “inadequate” part-time pre-K or no pre-K at all, but more than 73,000 4-year-olds would receive pre-K at full implementation of the plan. The city’s plan would also expand after-school opportunities for middle school students, adding new programs between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. in academics, athletics and other recreational activities.