Good News on Charters

Suddenly, Bill de Blasio found himself portrayed not as an agent of social change but as an advocate for the tired status quo.

We’ve said all along that Bill de Blasio is a very smart guy. That’s why we endorsed him, and we’re happy to see our judgment vindicated. The mayor recently offered an olive branch—heck, he offered the whole tree—in his unnecessary and unwise battle against charter schools.

The mayor’s harsh anti-charter rhetoric as a candidate and during the opening weeks of his administration no doubt satisfied some portions of his base, especially the ideologues who resent charter schools because they are so darn successful. But it has become evident that charters are cherished not just by idealistic reformers but also parents in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

Mr. de Blasio found himself faced with the internal contradictions of his own rhetoric. He claimed to speak for the underserved, the voiceless and the ignored—those left behind during the gilded Bloomberg years. To those New Yorkers, Mr. de Blasio pledged his untiring advocacy.

But those New Yorkers tend to be the biggest supporters of charter schools. And that point has been driven home in a series of television commercials that portrayed Mr. de Blasio’s opposition to charters as an obstacle to quality schools for poor children, the children of the other New York. 

Suddenly, Bill de Blasio found himself portrayed
not as an agent of social change but as an advocate
for the tired status quo.

Those who sneered at the very mention of charters, who dismissed charters as the vanguard of an evil capitalist plot to overthrow public education, tended to live in better-served communities with access to private schools and decent services—a contradiction, indeed.

The mayor’s poll numbers have been tumbling as charter school advocates appealed to New York’s fundamental sense of fairness. Suddenly, Mr. de Blasio found himself portrayed not as an agent of social change but as an advocate for the tired status quo.

So last Sunday, Mr. de Blasio struck a conciliatory tone. “We made some decisions in the last weeks striving for fairness,” he told a congregation at Riverside Church. “But I have to tell you, I didn’t measure up when it came to explaining those decisions to the people of this city. So let me start to right the ship now. Our mission is to create a city in which, regardless of zip code, your neighborhood public school is a great option for your child.” 

Those words follow behind-the-scenes talks between the mayor and some charter school advocates who have made no secret of their displeasure with Mr. de Blasio. That’s all good, because it shows that the mayor is not the inflexible ideologue that he seemed to be weeks ago. New York needs flexibility and creativity in City Hall. Mr. de Blasio clearly understands that.

So let the conversation over charters continue, without the ideology and the extremism of charter opponents.

Good News on Charters