New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a state budget deal which will provide $300 million in funding for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s prekindergarten program in New York City. Public schools are in need of reform. While the influx of state money shows commitment to reform, it does not address the root of the problem with New York City’s schools. Instead of attacking charter schools, as de Blasio has done in recent months, he should recognize what makes them effective and implement those features in the city’s public school system.
Charter schools approach education differently than public schools. They are hubs of innovative learning and, at their best, have produced students who achieve beyond what was previously expected of them. By giving closer attention to individual students, reducing class size and utilizing constantly tabulated data to monitor student achievement, charter schools have helped students thrive. More impressively, these schools are succeeding in neighborhoods that are underserved, not the Upper East Side. De Blasio should extract the aspects from charter schools that work, not condemn the whole operation for upstaging public schools.
Throwing money at a broken system does nothing to fix it. In Abbott v. Burke, a Supreme Court case decided in 1985, the court ruled that urban areas in New Jersey are entitled to the same amount of funding for education as wealthier, suburban districts. Following the ruling, little progress was made despite the fact that both poor and wealthy districts were receiving the same funding, and in 1997, the court mandated that the state use the allocated tax revenue to implement special programs in disadvantaged areas in order to spur progress.
The source of the money also raises questions as to the program’s longevity. De Blasio originally called for higher taxes on wealthy city residents to serve as a source of funds to implement new education programs. Rather than establish an enduring plan through the tax code, which is less subject to change than an annual state budget, the budget deal allocates a huge sum all at once. While this fulfills de Blasio’s campaign promise to extend pre-K to all New York City children, it does not provide the program with the security he hoped for.
In spite of de Blasio’s adamant emphasis on public education, the mayor should reconsider his current stance. His attempted suppression of charter schools is not the most effective way to improve the quality of New York City’s public schools. Instead, de Blasio should strengthen the system by integrating the features that have made charter schools so successful into public institutions, not encourage the distribution of large sums of money.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 31 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]