The most common claim by Big Education officials is that they care about children and want to do what’s best for them. I don’t question their intentions, but I do question their actions. Exhibit 1 this week is newly sworn New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a proud leftist and staunch opponent of public charter schools. Even though charters are tuition-free public schools, de Blasio, like the vast majority of liberals, sees competition as a threat to the system. But, as Nina Rees discusses in this piece published at USAToday.com, de Blasio should heed the data on the incredible positive impact charters are having in New York.
New York has roughly 70,000 students enrolled in public charter schools, and the numbers are on the rise. This school year alone, 14,000 new students in the city enrolled in charter schools with the vast majority in low-income neighborhoods.
Remarkably, several charter schools in low-income neighborhoods are showing some of the most impressive achievement gains. For instance, while just 30% of students citywide passed New York¹s new Common Core math exam, 97% of students passed the exam at Bronx Success Academy 2. The passage rate was 80% at Leadership Prep Ocean Hill in Brownsville, a community that has suffered academic failure for generations.
The opposition to public charters is fierce in North Carolina as well. But here in our state, liberals are also staunchly opposed to opportunity scholarships. In fact, key liberal groups are leading a legal fight against opportunity scholarships for low-income families. Once again, they’re putting the system over the child. I wrote about the potential impact of their misguided legal fight in this column. If successful, their lawsuit could also endanger a scholarship for kids with special needs.
But the special-needs scholarship could be in jeopardy due to legal challenges against a separate educational lifeline the legislature approved, this one for low-income parents — the new $4,200 per year opportunity scholarship. The North Carolina Association of Educators and the liberal advocacy group N.C. Justice Center lead a lawsuit that claims giving low-income kids scholarships to private schools violates the North Carolina Constitution. An additional suit filed by the North Carolina School Boards Association alleges the low-income scholarship gives money to schools that discriminate.
In a radio interview I conducted with Rep. Stam for Curtis Media Group, I asked him if the special-needs scholarship could be struck down if legal challenges to the low-income scholarship are successful. “Well, it wouldn’t per se,” Stam said, “but every argument they make in those lawsuits would do away with the special-needs scholarships and would do away with needs-based scholarships at the college level as well.”
Let’s be clear. Powerful left-of-center groups who say their mission is to protect children and seek justice are actively engaged in a legal effort that could result in the exact opposite outcome. If they prevail, thousands of kids may be denied an opportunity to achieve — an opportunity their parents have determined the traditional public system is not providing.
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