Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a staunch and vocal advocate of charter schools. Charters proliferated during the Bloomberg years, aided by the guidance of former schools Chancellor Joel Klein and a change in state laws that raised the cap on the schools in New York.
Teachers, parents, politicians, and school officials across the country have been watching the Bloomberg-Klein approach to education reform, especially their commitment to charter schools. But New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has pressed the pause button on the city’s charter school momentum, and this could be a sign of more changes to come.
Mayor de Blasio says he may divert $210 million away from charter schools to help fund his plan to provide 41,000 city students with full-day prekindergarten. Charter school advocates are nervous that de Blasio is not only sidelining charters’ needs, but could be sending a negative message to government and education officials nationwide.
While de Blasio’s campaign was often portrayed as anti-charter, the issue he is confronting has more to do with the public school system’s finances and stability. These are same issues almost every major urban school district leader is facing, including Rochester’s Bolgen Vargas. For example, De Blasio’s plan to use the $210 million is partly a result of a confrontation with Governor Andrew Cuomo over how to pay for universal full day pre-K.
De Blasio is technically diverting money from charter expansion, according to a recent article
in the New York Times, and not away from current operations. But de Blasio has also indicated that he won’t allow new charters to co-locate with traditional public schools, and may even charge some existing charters rent.
All of this has sent chills through the charter school community. They see him tugging a thread that could pull apart the whole movement. But it’s about much more than de Blasio’s stance on charters. De Blasio is challenging the idea of charter growth at the expense of destabilizing the rest of the public school system.