Bill de Blasio: Some Charter Schools ‘Sadly Have a Long History of Exclusion’

Mayor Bill de Blasio insists some charter schools have a history of exclusion and maintains the administration's shift away from test prep.

Mayor Bill de Blasio testifies to a House subcommittee on terrorism cuts.
Mayor Bill de Blasio testifies to a House subcommittee on terrorism cuts.

After charter school advocates blasted Mayor Bill de Blasio for dismissing their students’ higher test scores as an erroneous focus on high-stakes testing, the mayor is not backing down from those sentiments—saying some charter schools “have a long history of exclusion.”

Earlier this month, the mayor and Chancellor Carmen Farina announced that in 2016, 38 percent of students met proficiency standards in English, a 7.6 percent increase from last year; while 36.4 percent of students met the standards in math, a 1.2 percent increase from last year.

But an analysis of state Department of Education results by the pro-charter group Families for Excellent Schools found that the city’s public charter schools were 20 percent more proficient in reading and math compared to the rest of city students and 61 percent more proficient than their local school districts.

During WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, Lehrer asked de Blasio about a recent Daily News op-ed by Success Academy Founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz where she rejects the mayor’s assertion that charter students’ higher test scores stem from what he perceived to be an excessively heavy emphasis on test prep and high-stakes testing.

In that op-ed, Moskowitz—a foe of de Blasio’s dating back to his council days—notes that in 2013, six of the city’s top 50 public schools were charters and that the number jumped to 19 today. Eight of the Success Academy’s charter schools had higher math scores than the city’s gifted and talented schools, she noted.

But the mayor pushed back on her argument, citing a frequent criticism that charter schools do not serve enough students with special needs, English language learners, students with behavioral issues and students who do not test well.

“There’s been plenty of reporting on this, Brian. I’m not going to rehash it,” de Blasio said. “Some charters sadly have a long history of exclusion. Others are very inclusive. In fact, more inclusive than the dynamics within their district. I commend those, I applaud those, and we work well with those.”

He thinks there is a “bigger philosophical issue” at play, noting that more than 90 percent of the children in the public school system go to traditional public schools.

“The future of New York City will be determined by our traditional public schools. I have said that many, many times,” de Blasio continued. “The future of the United States of America will be determined by our traditional public schools.”

Conflict with charter school advocates has been a long theme for the mayor. He had opposed a law passed in 2014 that requires the city to provide new charter schools free rent in public school buildings or pay for their rent in a private building—a law that Gov. Andrew Cuomo championed.

Bill de Blasio: Some Charter Schools ‘Sadly Have a Long History of Exclusion’