Monday, July 08, 2019

Bill de Blasio Offers Valuable Lip Support Against Privatization

I got to see a little of the NEA forum with Democratic presidential candidates, ably covered here by Chalkbeat. Bernie Sanders really shone here, in contrast to his indifferent showing in the debate. He seems to have gotten a better focus on the education issues that were so thoroughly neglected by all in 2016. He's not the only one.

Of course, there were disappointments, including Beto O'Rourke, who trotted out the old canard about opposing private, for-profit charter schools. That's a dubious distinction, as only two states even permit so-called for-profit schools. Yet they all make profits, one way or the other. I like Mayor de Blasio's message much better.

That said, it's tough to take his opposition very seriously. When de Blasio first ran for mayor, I supported him enthusiastically. I declined to support his primary opponent, what's-his-name, who had told the Daily News editorial board that NYC couldn't afford to give teachers the raise that NYPD and FDNY had gotten under Emperor Bloomberg. The time to support what's-his-name, in my view, was four years earlier when he ran against Bloomberg.

I contributed to de Blasio, went to Queens UFT to make calls for him, and attended his inauguration. I froze my ass off out there, having neglected to wear warm shoes, but it seemed worth it. We were finally going to have a mayor who was Not Insane, a mayor who didn't hate us and everything we stood for. What was one day of cold when we'd finally be able to move teaching into the twenty-first century?

De Blasio, though, didn't make the moves that were necessary to fix NYC. He left most of Bloomberg's awful educrats in place. Worse, he appointed one of Bloomberg's leftovers as chancellor. Carmen Fariña made her bones as a principal. She replaced teachers and students somehow, and got her school to get good test scores. I failed to see the miracle-working inherent in that. If you get to pick your students, the miracle would be not getting great test scores (a feat many charters appear to
achieve somehow or other).

Mayor de Blasio ran on a platform of opposition to charters. This was one of the things I most appreciated about him. However, Andrew Cuomo, having taken suitcases of cash from BFFs of Eva Moskowitz, didn't much appreciate this. Thus he and his Heavy Hearted Assembly passed a bill saying if NYC didn't approve charters, it had to pay rent for them. After all, who wants Eva's company frittering away its hedge-fund millions on things so petty as rent?

Mayor de Blasio didn't have a whole lot of options. He had to enable the charters one way or another. I can't blame him for that. However, I haven't heard him utter a cross word about this law. I haven't seen him lift a finger to oppose it. After years of absolute inaction on this, it's hard to accept de Blasio as a strong privatization opponent.

If he's still in the race by the time it hits NYC, he's very low on my list of choices. He's better than Beto. He's better than Booker, who's actually Betsy DeVos with a tie. He's better than Biden, who can't think on his feet or keep his foot out of his mouth. But I love Bernie. I also loved seeing Kamala Harris jump on Biden, and would love to see her debate Trump. Elizabeth Warren is getting better on education.

If Bill de Blasio wants his campaign to catch fire, he's gonna have to provide a viable spark. Thus far, I'm not seeing it.
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