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Goodbye Mr. Mayor

As we say farewell to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, we hope the education reforms he enacted during his tenure are as durable as the Styrofoam cups he sought to ban.

Over the past decade, New York City has become one of the nation’s laboratories for charter school expansion in the United States. With a lack of options like vouchers or virtual learning, New York charter schools became an integral part of shifting the educational landscape so that all students have access to a quality education that meets their needs.

And by and large, the experiment has paid off, yielding student achievement gains and placing kids in more positive learning environments.

As just one example, The Center for Education Reform toured Democracy Prep Endurance Charter School in Manhattan to see firsthand the type of positive and uplifting environment charters are capable of sustaining. In a building shared with a traditional public school, the shift in atmosphere upon entering the charter school section became abundantly clear. Detailed, colorful banners lined the hallways, and students in the classrooms were noticeably more engaged. And this is a trend seen in charter schools all across the five boroughs.

Bloomberg has not left the education scene for good, evidenced by his continued involvement in the Young Men’s Initiative, aimed at reducing crime and increasing graduation rates in high-poverty neighborhoods.

But now that the Bloomberg era has come to a close and the reign of Bill de Blasio is about to begin, many wonder what is to become of the progress made in creating viable educational options for kids.

This week, charter operators expressed wariness at Carmen Farina, de Blasio’s pick for Schools Chancellor. Farina is urging cooperation and parental engagement, but it remains to be seen what exactly that entails.

De Blasio’s mayoral campaign message was based off of the Dickensian ‘Tale of Two Cities’ theme to describe the juxtaposition between the city’s very well to do and the underserved. We hope the ‘best of times’ are still ahead for New York City, and the ‘age of wisdom’ in delivering more and better schooling opportunities for kids won’t be followed by the ‘age of foolishness.’

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