If there is a litmus test for Democrats, education "reform" might be it, and New York City is at the epicenter of the conflict. It pits corporate interests against teachers, governor against mayor, and charter operators against just about everyone.
Eva Moskowitz, head of Success Academy Charter Schools, is not a happy camper this week. Since Bill de Blasio took office as mayor of New York City, charters no longer enjoy the carte blanche treatment they're used to receiving under Mayor Bloomberg.
Last week, Mayor de Blasio withdrew approval for Success Academy schools to co-locate with other New York Public Schools, a move that has been applauded by advocates for strong public schools without corporate influence.
Co-location has long been an issue with charter schools under the Bloomberg administration. These schools were allowed to use public school facilities at no charge, even if it meant crowding out the children attending the public school.
Hope Scott, the parent association leader at P.S. 123, in Harlem, said she could not forget a summer day in 2008, when she saw desks and teachers’ property thrown in the hallway as a Success Academy school was “moving in.”
“They moved in aggressively,” Ms. Scott said. “And they did not notify us they were coming in here and that they were moving into the classrooms that they wanted to move into.”
De Blasio is requiring them to pay rent, much to Moskowitz' chagrin. The mayor's move exposes a rift not only with Moskowitz, but also Governor Cuomo, who is a big fan of charter schools. Moskowitz shut down her schools and bused everyone up to a rally for universal Pre-K to protest de Blasio's decision. She is also planning a multi-million dollar ad buy to protest...paying rent.
Wednesday, Moskowitz embarked on a media tour to trash de Blasio, playing every sympathy card in her deck. And what better place to begin than MSNBC's Morning Joe, where Scarborough was there with a sympathetic shoulder and a flag to wave for charter schools.
“We have a mayor in the City of New York who says he’s a progressive on the one hand, but wants to deny poor kids in Harlem an opportunity, a shot at life,” said Ms. Moskowitz, speaking to a receptive audience on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
She went on to accuse the mayor of trying to “disenfranchise poor minority kids who want a shot at the American dream.” “I was never expecting in my wildest dreas that the mayor of the city of New York–a so-called progressive–would throw children in Harlem out in the street,’ she added.
“This is outrageous. I’ll say something else: It’s immoral. It’s immoral,” concurred host Joe Scarborough, who called the “personal, vindictive attack” against Ms. Moskowitz “disgusting” and hailed Gov. Andrew Cuomo for appearing at a pro-charter school rally in Albany yesterday.
Here's the entire clip, but check your blood pressure first.
There is nothing progressive about charter schools. They are an attempt to remove education from the public square in order to pad the wallets of corporate interests. Follow the money in the charter "movement" and you'll trace it back to venture capitalists, billionaires and others whose interests are in profits and private control of public concerns. There are at least five conservative think tanks that exist to privatize public education so they can bust unions, profit from educating our kids, and reduce education to a formula that produces standardized test results.
None of those are progressive values. Not one. Yes, Bill de Blasio is a progressive, whether Moskowitz likes it or not, because progressives support universal, free public education for all children.
This conflict is in the early stages, but it promises to be Ground Zero for education, and for Democrats in general. Thanks to Ed Schultz for chasing the Morning Joe nonsense with a decent discussion of the real issues with one who knows -- Diane Ravitch.