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CER Welcomes Bloomberg’s Pro-Charter School Record to Presidential Debate Stage

Tenure as NYC Mayor saw charter schools grow by over 10 times

February 11, 2020 - WASHINGTON — With former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg expected to join the debate stage next Wednesday in Las Vegas, Nevada, at least one important factor already sets him apart from the rest of the pack: his unabashed support for educational opportunity.

“While nearly every other Democrat running for president has willingly turned their back on charter school students, Mayor Bloomberg deserves credit for holding true to his rock-solid record of supporting charter schools and their transformative success which we have long recognized,” said Jeanne Allen, Founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform (CER). “We experienced first-hand the focus he placed on ensuring that great ideas became schools, and great schools grew when he was Mayor.”

Said Bloomberg in 2012: “Parents and students both deserve [options] … and school choice is an important way to hold schools accountable for success because when people vote with their feet, you know that it’s real and it’s pretty obvious which direction they are going.” 

While CER does not endorse candidates for any public office, we will never hesitate to commend leaders who use their power and platforms to defend the right of every parent to determine their child’s education, or conversely criticize them when they do not.

Historically, education opportunity is not a partisan issue. Mayor Bloomberg’s pledge to expand charter schools throughout the nation, coupled with his pro-student record as Mayor of New York, is cause for all who value the right of parents to direct their children’s education to cheer. 

“Rather than jump through hoops to pander to powerful union interests like his rivals are sadly doing, Mayor Bloomberg has designed his education platform to serve students first and foremost,” added Allen. “Even as current Democrat frontrunner Bernie Sanders openly vows to shut down opportunity for hundreds of thousands of students nationwide, it’ll be a relief to see at least one candidate on stage having these children’s backs.”

While the leading Democrats have largely thrown charter school families under the bus, Mayor Bloomberg took time to meet with moms and dads in the Powerful Parent Network last year in Atlanta—and took their voices seriously.

Facts worth celebrating about Mayor Bloomberg’s education record:

  • Over the course of Bloomberg’s 12-year administration, the number of charter schools expanded from 18 schools with 4,442 students to more than 180 schools serving 71,422 kids
  • New York City’s charter schools were made so effective and popular that there are currently more than 50,000 students on a waiting list for charter school seats as parents seek alternatives to low-performing neighborhood public schools
  • Minority students who attended charter schools under Bloomberg’s mayoralty performed better academicallythan their peers at traditional public schools
  • By the time Bloomberg left office, New York City’s high school graduation rate soared by more than 40% to an all-time high of 66%
  • Thanks to his pro-reform policies, the New York City school district received an impressive “A-“ rating in the Brooking Institution’s “Education Choice and Competitive Index”

Mayor Bloomberg is also to be commended for the following remarks he made last summer to the 2019 NAACP National Convention:

Some of the top-performing schools in New York City are public charter schools. Charters around the country often receive less money than traditional public schools, but in New York, at least, they often performed at the very highest levels. And that’s why we created 173 of them, to go along with the hundreds of non-charter public schools we created.

In New York, we showed that when charters are granted carefully, and overseen rigorously, the results can be incredibly impressive among millions of kids, giving them the opportunity to succeed in life and pursue their dreams. And that model can work nationally.

Unfortunately, however, the political discussion in America around education has shifted from when President Obama was leading it. Today, most Democrats running for President are avoiding talking about President Obama, and they are also avoiding talking about charter schools, or actually opposing them.

They want to take options away from our kids, and I don’t think we should do that. You can’t let them do that.

So when you hear a candidate talk about education as a civil rights issue, ask yourself: are they speaking hard truths, like President Obama did? Or just politically-convenient truths, like increasing spending?

What others have said:

“Mr. Bloomberg should take pride in his record—and take Mr. de Blasio to task for choosing teachers unions over children by trying to stifle charters. This is the right policy on grounds of opportunity and equity, and it is also good politics. Celebrating charters would distinguish him from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who are promising to limit charter growth, and would likely help boost his standing with minority voters.” – Wall Street Journal Editorial Board

“Whoever replaces Bloomberg [in 2013] will soon realize that his legacy of data driven decision making and accountability for student achievement is now embedded in the fabric of every school around the city. And that the national discussion around school reform has been elevated thanks to a leader who has not only introduced but implemented rigorous reforms.” – Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

“The results produced by new small high schools and charters reflect the effects of signature education initiatives under Bloomberg. … Taken together these changes are evidence of real progress. The public schools are now like New York: in a hurry, driven, determined to do better.” – Paul T. Hill, Founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education

“Graduation rates climbed by more than 40 percent to historic highs, and dropout rates cratered. Later research would peg some of the increases to Bloomberg’s policy of closing large high schools and opening smaller ones in their place. The charter schools that opened in New York City drove larger learning gains than their district-run counterparts. And in a city that was growing safer and wealthier, families that might have chosen to leave or opt for private schools chose public education instead.” – Chalkbeat

"There are WAY more good choices for families today [2013] than when he first took office." – Joe Williams, Executive Director of Democrats for Education Reform

Further reading:

Bloomberg’s Education Opening | Wall Street Journal Editorial Board

Seven Years of Mayoral Control | Gotham Gazette

Bloomberg education plan to promote charter school expansion | New York Post


Founded in 1993, the Center for Education Reform aims to expand educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans — particularly our youth — ensuring that conditions are ripe for innovation, freedom and flexibility throughout U.S. education.