A Push for Charter Schools
September 30th, 2009
In the wake of a study finding charter schools help close the student achievement gap, Mayor Michael Bloomberg today announced a series of steps to expand and otherwise bolster charter schools in the city. (We’re not sure why this announcement came from his campaign and not the mayor’s office or the education department but it did.)
Much of the plan suggests proposals that charter proponents have sought for a while: lifting the cap on the number of charter schools, giving the schools chancellor the power to grant charters (an authority that now rests with the State Board of Regents) and streamlining the charter review process.
But the statement also provides additional evidence of the mutual back scratching between the Bloomberg administration and the Harlem Children’s Zone and its founder, Geoffrey Canada.
Giving a shout-out to the Children’s Zone in the release, Bloomberg cites “its comprehensive full-day programming, all of which is centered around the extremely successful Promise Academy charter school.” And so, the release said, ” Mike [as in Bloomberg] will work with the Harlem Children’s Zone to expand onto NYCHA [New York City Housing Authority] property in Harlem.” The Children’s Zone is the only charter operator singled out in the proposed changes.
The plan also calls for creating two new “children’s zones” — one in Central Brooklyn and one in the South Bronx — although a spokesperson for the Bloomberg campaign said these would be independent of the Harlem Children’s Zone.
To underscored the connection, Canada makes a plug for Bloomberg in the body of the release saying, “Mayor Bloomberg has led the way in growing these schools and making New York a national leader in the charter school movement. The progress we’ve made has been terrific, and now Mike Bloomberg has a bold new plan to enable the charter school effort to reach full maturity.”
Canada has gone to bat for Bloomberg before. He created and chaired the board of Learn NY, which lobbied hard for extension of mayoral control of schools. He was among the leaders of nonprofits who testified in support of the mayor’s successful bid to extend term limits.
Meanwhile, WNYC has reported that his Harlem Children’s Zone has received almost $388 million in contracts from the city and the Education Department over the past decade. Bloomberg himself has given the group a half million since his election, according to the New York Times
The zone’s charter has been widely praised — by Time’s columnist David Brooks, among other — for helping to reduce the achievement gap, although other studies, including an analysis by Aaron Pallas, have called those claims into question.
And reviewing this year’s school progress reports (a.k.a. report cards), Gotham Schools found that the Promise Academy saw the largest drop in its score of any school in the city – getting a mere B (84 percent of schools got As).
Interestingly one thing Bloomberg’s plan does not do is call for a study of what the charter schools do to boost student achievement — and whether some of those moves, such as smaller classes, could be adopted by conventional public schools.By Gail Robinson on September 30, 2009, 2:38 pm
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