New York’s primary obligation under the state Constitution is the fair and proper education of every child regardless of venue, regardless of ethnicity and, more importantly, regardless of wealth.
Like my three children, I am a product of public education, and they and I are very lucky for it. We did not have to fight the way other parents have been forced to do because we had access and opportunity. I want that for every child.
In this context, we are embroiled right now in a comprehensive discussion about mayoral control of the schools of the great City of New York and of its future.
Let me be clear. As the former chairman of the Senate Education Committee, I believe in mayoral control and have said so many times and for many years. I believe in a variation of a theme that the buck should stop somewhere — similar to President Harry Truman’s statement that the buck stops here. Someone must ultimately be responsible, and I have voted for mayoral control because that is who I am and what I truly believe. Doesn’t matter if it’s Mayor Giuliani or Mayor Bloomberg or Mayor de Blasio. This is about the children first and the parents thereafter, and then the teachers and the administrators. It’s not about the politicians.
Ask yourself these questions about Mayor de Blasio’s stewardship of the schools: Are we investing wisely and are we actually getting results? Are children actually graduating with the skills they need for gainful employment or further higher education? These are all fair questions, especially as we look at how they relate to charter schools, which lately seem to have unfairly become the pariah of many so-called “education advocates” in New York City and New York state.
In spite of the mayor’s efforts and the rhetoric of the teachers unions, charter schools are actual and truly legitimate public schools educating nearly 110,000 kids — real children of real parents and families who are begging for their children to be given the same chance that the mayor’s children have had; and frankly, which they all deserve.
The mayor assumes there are no blemishes on his record when it comes to the city’s public schools. Not true. He has been dogged by a grade-rigging scandal.
There are 90 failing schools. And he has been openly hostile to charters, even though they dramatically outperform traditional public schools by every metric.
When the state sends more than $10 billion a year to the City of New York, money schools need and deserve, and this mayor is charged with being the vanguard and protector of those funds, I will never apologize for asking where the money is spent and how and on which children — regardless of their community.
No one is attempting to privatize schools, but we are trying to give this mayor more tools to strengthen education for everyone. Charter schools are public schools and they deserve our respect and attention because of two essential things — their outstanding record of results on behalf of children and their advocacy for more than 50,000 kids now on a waiting list who are clamoring for a chance at success. Those kids and parents are trying to get to the dance, and I believe we have an obligation to help them get there.
John Flanagan is the majority leader of the New York state Senate.