March 24, 2014

When Eva Moskowitz unleashed the hounds of hell on Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this month, those hounds came in the form of a multi-million dollar ad blitz intended to sell New Yorkers on the value of charters.

It's working:

Charter school leaders have seized on a key vulnerability. While black and Latino residents overwhelmingly backed Mr. de Blasio in last year’s election, many also embrace the cause of charter schools, which operate primarily in low-income neighborhoods.

Families for Excellent Schools, a charter school advocacy group, began running advertisements last month attacking Mr. de Blasio for his decision to deny public space to three charter schools run by Success Academy Charter Schools, a high-performing network. In defending his decision, the mayor said he worried about losing space for special education programs, and he expressed concern about having elementary school students attend classes on high school campuses. He also allowed almost every other charter school to continue using public school space, and more recently, has promised to find space at another site for one of the three Success schools, an existing school that wants to add older grades.

In one ad, the smiling faces of the school’s students zoom across the screen and then begin to disappear.

“They love their school and all the opportunities it brings,” a narrator says. “But Mayor Bill de Blasio just announced he is closing their school, taking away their hopes and dreams.”

In another, a parent named Maria offers a direct message to Mr. de Blasio: “You’re not thinking about the people that you’re hurting.”

The campaign seems to have taken a toll on the mayor’s popularity, and his aides have acknowledged as much. A poll by Quinnipiac University last week showed that 38 percent of voters approved of Mr. de Blasio’s handling of New York City schools, while 49 percent disapproved. The poll last week showed that 45 percent of voters approved of the new mayor, down from 53 percent two months ago.

Politics is a dirty enough business, but it's harder to do anything at all when the Billionaire Bucks are poured into neighborhoods.

Longtime supporters of charter schools, including the Walton Family Foundation and the hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, are helping finance the ad campaign, according to an individual involved in the effort.

In recent days, Mr. de Blasio has aggressively reached out to Wall Street financiers, including Mr. Tudor Jones, in hopes of easing tensions and ending the ads, which are running dozens of times a day. He also has spoken with Daniel S. Loeb, chairman of the board of Success Academy and Jonathan D. Gray, chairman of the board of Harlem Village Academies, another charter network.

That's what they do. These charter schools, which were sold under the Bloomberg administration as an "experiment," have no intention of going anywhere. As long as the Billionaire Bucks pay for propaganda that convinces people they're really just good people trying to do good things for the little children of Harlem, they're in for the long haul.

I just wish one person would ask the folks in these ads whether or not they think the millions spent on the ads might have done a better work inside their schools.

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