Editorial: Next NYC mayor mustn't abandon gains in schools
The No. 1 issue on the minds of likely voters in the upcoming New York City elections is not the stop-and-frisk imbroglio. It's not the elusive struggle for better outcomes in programs for the homeless and mentally ill. And it's not the sorry status of some city parks.
It's education, according to a recent Zogby poll released by the Manhattan Institute, a think tank. All told, 40 percent of those polled listed public education as a top issuefacing the city -- and they're right. There's plenty of room for improvement in the nation's largest system.
We know. There have been some gains: Since 2005, high school graduation rates have jumped 39 percent, the city says. Dropout rates have fallen by half. A promising process for teacher evaluations is ready to roll. Genuine accountability for pupils has been ratcheted up. But it's not enough. The waiting list for charter-school seats has hit an astounding 53,000, city schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said at a Manhattan Institute forum Tuesday. "Parents want successful schools," he explained.
So where are the daring-yet-plausible plans among mayoral candidates for strengthening parental voices in one of the world's most complex school systems? Where are the exhortations to take our gains to the next level?
What New Yorkers mainly hear are the bugle calls for retreat. Some candidates want to make it more difficult for charter schools to expand into public school buildings. We're lookin' at you, Bill de Blasio, Bill Thompson and John Liu. Meanwhile, the United Federation of Teachers is waiting in the tall grass for the Bloomberg administration to finally turn out the lights on Dec. 31. That's when the union will begin a long march to roll back mayoral school control. And by the way, the UFT would also like to clip the wings of the fledgling teacher evaluation system.
Republican Joseph Lhota has been emphatic about the need to accept Bloomberg's education record and move ahead. And the rest of the pack? Not so much. What the city needs is for someone to one-up Lhota in his support for continued school reform. Tuesday's progress needs a lively defense. Tomorrow's progress needs a hefty push.