Why Are Progressives Fighting to Keep Poor Children in Failing Schools?

April 23, 2014

Charter schools give parents in poor areas a way to provide a quality education for their children, yet New York Mayor Bill de Blasio opposes them, says Jim Epstein, a producer at Reason TV.

  • P.S. 149, a public school in Harlem whose third graders have an 82 percent failure rate on state achievement tests, is the school to which Annaly Lopez would have been forced to send her daughter.
  • But thanks to a charter school network in New York City, Lopez's daughter Renee eventually won a spot at Success Academy, which has a great achievement record.

Because charter schools have to compete for students, they get results.

  • At Renee's previous public school, she could not receive the extra help she needed until she received a poor report card and underwent a subsequent evaluation.
  • But immediately upon enrolling at Success Academy, Renee was given extra help, and her mother was able to communicate with her teacher at all hours of the day -- something she was not able to do in the public school system.

Charter school critics argue that when students like Renee are allowed to flee their district assignments, it hurts the kids left behind, whose parents often lack the knowledge or motivation to look outside the zone. They also complain that traditional schools are losing valuable classroom space as charters move into their buildings.

In February, de Blasio blocked the opening of two new Success Academy branches (and the expansion of a third) by reversing a decision made by the prior administration to allow them to share buildings with existing public schools. After pushback, de Blasio has since softened his anti-charter rhetoric.

So what about the other public schools in the area?

  • Research shows that charter schools not only improve the charters themselves, but the schools around them.
  • Even P.S. 149 is making changes, and a new principal has brought new leadership to the school.

Source: Jim Epstein, "Progressives Fight to Keep Poor Kids Trapped in Failing Schools," Reason Magazine, April 15, 2014.

 

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