NYC’s Fauxgressive Mayor De Blasio Turning into a Charter School Cheerleader

Yves here. The notion that De Blasio wasn’t all he was cracked up to be was evident years ago.  De Blasio didn’t have the guts to call out the cops when they turned their backs on him repeatedly at a police funeral after he voiced mild support of protests against Eric Garner’s (“I can’t breathe”) and Michael Brown’s  (Ferguson, Missouri) deaths. In a democracy, the police are accountable to the elected officials and the public, period. His posture on charter schools is in keeping with the fact that he puts up a good face but quietly rolls with the interest of powerful constituencies.

By Diane Ravitch, a co-founder of the Network for Public Education, is a historian of education and research professor of education at New York University. She blogs at Originally published at her website

De Blasio has closed many public schools in New York City. Unlike Bloomberg, he does not boast about it.

When Bill de Blasio ran for mayor the first time, he sought my help. We met and spoke candidly. He told me he would strongly support traditional public schools. He said he would oppose the expansion of private charters into public school space. He promised to stop closing schools because of their test scores. His own children went to public schools. He would protect them and end the destructive tactics of Joel Klein, who coldly and cruelly closed schools over the tearful objections of students, parents, and teachers.

I enthusiastically endorsed him. The campaign issued a press release. De Blasio was elected in 2013, and re-elected in 2017. I wanted him to succeed and to support public schools against the privatizers.

He tried to stand up to the charters, but Eva’s billionaire backers rolled out a multi-million dollar TV campaign and donated huge sums to Governor Cuomo and key legislators. That ended de Blasio’s effort to block charter expansion. The legislature gave them a blank check in New York City, allowed them to expand at will, and even required the city to pay their rent in private facilities if it couldn’t provide suitable public space. Now his majority appointees to the city board rubber stamp charter co-locations and expansions.

Although the Mayor and Chancellor Farina have tried to support struggling schools, they have not hesitated to close them when they don’t show test score gains.

At the last meeting of the city’s Board of Education (which Mayor Bloomberg capriciously named the Panel on Education Policy to indicate its insignificance in the new era of mayoral control but which is still called the Board of Education in statute), the Mayor submitted a list of schools to close. Sadly, like Bloomberg, he has closed many schools. Unlike Bloomberg, he does not boast about it. There’s that.

At the last meeting of the Board, one of the Mayor’s appointees, T. Elzora Cleveland, dissented and another abstained, denying the majority needed to close two of the schools on the Mayor’s list. Cleveland has resigned, and education activists assume she was forced out to make way for a more pliable board member. 

How is this different from Mayor Bloomberg’s tactics?

During the Bloomberg regime, the Mayor ousted three appointees who objected to his wish to end social promotion. The three members worried that no one had devised a plan to help the kids held back. Bloomberg fired them on the spot, and said, in effect, mayoral control means I am in charge and my appointees do as I wish. At the time, the firings were called “the Monday night massacre.”

I strongly oppose closing public schools, especially those that are historic anchors of their community. Several years back, I was on a panel with John Jackson, president of the Schott Foundation for Public Education. He said he had traveled to many countries to learn how they dealt with struggling schools. In every country, the Minister of Education said, “If a school is struggling, we send in support.” Dr. Jackson asked, “What do you do if you send support, and the school doesn’t improve?” In every case, the Minister said, “We send in more support.”

The bottom line is that accountability lies with the leadership. If a school is in trouble, it is up to the leadership to help, not punish. They control the resources. They decide whether the school will reduce class sizes and have the staff and programs it needs. Accountability begins at the top.

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    1. RepubAnon

      Public schools waste lots of money, because all the money goes to educating students rather than political donations and multi-million dollar executive salaries…

  1. Denis Drew

    Cracks in the Pavement: Social Change and Resilience in Poor Neighborhoods Paperback – September 2, 2008
    by Martin Sanchez-Jankowski (Author)

    Professor Sanchez-Jankowski spent nine years on the streets in five down income neighborhoods in NYC and LA. He discovered (among other things) that impoverished neighborhood schools failed because students (and sometimes teachers!) don’t make the extra effort to succeed because they don’t perceive anything remunerative enough waiting for them in the labor market to make it worth the extra effort.

    My read on this is that American born (spoiled? — includes me) workers won’t scramble full tilt all day — as most jobs require — for $10/hr. My solution to poverty (and gangs and opiods — same solution for both black and blue-collar) is to make most $10/hr jobs pay $20/hr.

    The only way of course is re-establishing labor unions of course — to see how easy, see below.

    But is the money enough there to shift around? My first answer is: if fast food can pay $15/hr with 33% labor costs, then, Target and Walgreen’s can pay $20/hr with 10-15% labor costs and Walmart (bless its efficient heart) should be able to pay $25/hr with only 7% labor costs …

    … if properly unionized of course (properly can include sector wide labor agreements like the Teamsters National Master Freight Agreement).

    My second answer is: Bobby Kennedy wanted to fight poverty — I remember something about “model cities” — but I’m not sure what he was thinking with only half today’s per capita income to divvy around. With today’s doubled per capita it should just be a matter of sloshing income around a bit more evenly.

    Today’s bottom 40 percent of incomes take something like 10% of overall income. What I call the mid-59% take more like 67.5%. Top 1% take an outrageous 22.5% (up from 10% a couple of generations back.

    Newly unionized bottom 40% should be able to about double their overall share by raising retail goods prices a bit (avg. 10 –15%) on top mid-59%. Mid-59% have to enact confiscatory taxes on the order that existed in the Eisenhower era (with the bottom 40% gently nudging them on — the more the 59% make, the more the 40% can charge.)

    It may have been more efficient to lower confiscatory rates in JFK’s 60s but today’s top 1% are taking 20X (!) as much as per capita income only doubled — they’ll still have more than enough incentives.

    Now for the easy part: revamp federal labor law (labor market equivalent of single-payer). The blue wave Congress has only to mandate regular union certification and re-certification elections at every private workplace; one, three or five years apart, plurality rules on the latter.

    Perfect for attracting minority and blue collar votes — both in need of exact same labor market cure — hottest issue of 100 years as everyone almost is personally affected.

    Old, ineffectual NLRB protections will still be in place for any group who decide to organize (or de-unionize) in between scheduled elections — perhaps more effectual in a high union density country.

  2. Michael Fiorillo

    I’m a public school teacher in NYC, until recently an activist with opposition caucuses in the UFT, and was literally the first person in the union to raise warnings about charter schools when NYS passed its charter school law twenty years ago.

    I’m not a big supporter of De Blasio, for a lot of reasons. That said, he tried to do the right thing a few years ago, by attempting to deny the grotesque Eva Moskowitz and her private charter chain free space in public school buildings, and he got his ass handed to him, with no support whatsoever, not even rhetorical, from other interested parties.

    The union did nothing, parent groups and elected officials did nothing, and let him dangle alone helplessly while Moskowitz forced her students, teachers and parent to bus up to Albany for a heavily publicized demonstration where Governor Cuomo supported her, and for which she received the usual uncritical media coverage.

    Why should De Blasio risk anything politically for the UFT, when they wouldn’t back him over a life-or-death issue for the union, that he was trying to help them with? Ironically, De B got the last laugh, when he received the UFT endorsement for re-election months early, while owing and promising them nothing. Which is what teachers will get when they re-negotiate the contract that expires this year. As usual, teachers get doubly screwed.

    Also, have you been to a demonstration in NYC recently? If so, haven’t you noticed how much less aggressive and nasty the NYPD is? The decline in racist, stop-and-frisk of young black and Latino youth is also a reality (with more than a little help from the courts) and De Blasio should get some credit for that, as well, along with the establishment of universal pre-kindergarten.

    Like all NYC mayors, De Blasio is a servant of the real estate industry, which is running amok, even more than usual, and NYC readers could chime in about many of his other failings, but once badly burned by lack of support from a political base whose misleaders (that would be the nullity that is UFT president Michael Mulgrew) won’t even take a risk over an issue (charter schools) that threatens to destroy them, the blame is not solely, or even primarily De Blasio’s.

    While teachers in West Virgina (ironically, a state that voted heavily for Trump) bravely went out on strike, and stayed out against the wishes of their union leaders, and won, NYC teachers are uninformed, apathetic and/or demoralized, and easily intimidated. The UFT, a single party-state that is the last of the old political machines, had devolved into little more than a company union, and actively works to maintain the passivity if its members, fewer than a quarter of whom vote in union elections.

    None of that is De Blasio’s fault, though his failings will worsen as a result of it.

    1. Altandmain

      Sounds like the UFT screwed its members over. The same has been happening with the UAW I’m afraid in the car industry as well.

      It’s messed up – unions like the Democratic Party, have been co-opted by the rich.

      We don’t just need unions – we need unions that are willing to fight for the people.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      The reason the police stopped stop and frisk is because a court ruled that it is illegal! De Blasio has nothing to do with it.

      In Floyd v. City of New York, decided on August 12, 2013, US District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the stop and frisk practice (not the law itself) was unconstitutional and directed the police to adopt a written policy to specify where such stops are authorized.

      1. Denis Drew

        Mayor Bloomberg’s police were started doing 7X (!) as many stops after crime receded 4X = 28X as many stops per reported crime. The stat I like is that if it is a thousand-to-one a cop has a reason to stop a kid on the way to school, then, it is a million-to-one he has a reason to stop two together, and a billion-to-one, etc. And it’s the same three, four, five kids over and over again.

        Bloomberg also built two unneeded courthouses in Brooklyn and the Bronx for (today’s money) a billion and a quarter dollars — again after crime mostly shrunk.

        I used to go a lot in the late 70s to the two Bronx courthouses that were already there with some local kids. The “old” courthouse built in 1939 was in the same pristine condition as my beautiful1941 high school some blocks south of it. The then “new” $120 million (today’s money) 1976 courthouse was built to catch the heavy overflow resulting from that era’s crime wave.

        Too see pics of all three Bronx courthouses and my high school, click here:

      2. Michael Fiorillo

        I credited the court ruling in my comment, but the practical reality is that a court’s ruling is strengthened by the Executive support, which it’s getting, which also validates by my point concerning the NYPD’s response to street protests, which is noticeably softer than under Bloomberg.

        A low bar, perhaps, but something, and better than what most people are getting elsewhere, which is ever-more police hardening and militarization, even for low-key events.

  3. Denis Drew

    Lately, I’ve been trying to interest people in renewed federal labor law where Congress mandates union certification or re-certification on a regular schedule in every private work place. One advantage I usually don’t think to mention is that it would wake up lazy union leaderships.

    Usually, from my multi-union memories (AFL-CIO, Teamsters, District 37, etc.) union elections don’t offer any real alternatives (Hoffa v. Carey big exception). We don’t know anything about the administration; we just hope they are good (usually). But, if the admins know there will be a re-cert election — even though there is no genuine threat — just human nature would make them run scared. Just saying.

    Public schools are not private work places but in a nation where such regularly scheduled re-cert was broadly in place (and cert where it wasn’t) it probably wouldn’t take too long for scheduled elections to work their way into public employment.

    Chicago’s teachers union is the very militant opposite of your situation as you probably are aware.

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Yes, I’m aware of that, but I’m also aware that despite it’s miltancy, the CTU hasn’t been able to successfully fight school closings, teacher layoffs or charter school metastasizing.

      1. Denis Drew

        Which emphasizes the all importance or RE-unionizing the whole country to get everything back to running on a common sense basis again, like it used to when I was just going to work in the early 60s and 70s. Somebody just has to start up a national issue of proposing a new federal labor setup: (can still keep the old one): regularly scheduled union elections at every private workplace — and the issue will take off of its own accord going by the connection to everybody’s life, not just the 6% private firms with unions left like most union issues — will fly by logistics alone, not even need merit to take off.

        I’m so glad I read that piece in On Labor by SEIU32bj attorney Strom or I wouldn’t have a clue.

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