Perhaps Michael Bloomberg’s greatest achievement as mayor was encourage the creation of more good public schools in the city, giving middle-class families more reason to stay and low-income parents real hope for their children. Mayor Bill de Blasio then went to war against those schools – and Eric Adams’ administration continues to blink to undo the damage.
Part of the Blas War was a protracted assault on charters. But another was an attack on selective middle and high schools in the name of “fairness.” And the results have now arrived from one of the most controversial moves: the “Diversity Plan” imposed on District 15 of Brooklyn in 2018.
City Hall spent big on beefing up D15 by ‘voluntarily’ moving all college admissions to an educator-run lottery, ending the screens some schools used to ensure new students were prepared for demanding classwork. .
The plan was announced by MS 51, the school from which Blas’ own children (and those of then City Council, Brad Lander, another big proponent of the plan) had already graduated.
Prior to the change, the school was the fourth largest source of supply for special high schools in the city. It’s now 16. And it’s not just the most gifted who are suffering: Seventh-grade math proficiency scores have fallen from 81% to 48%, with huge drops across all racial groups tracked by city — a level of learning loss worse than other schools have seen amid the pandemic — as student concerns about safety soar.
We only know now because a group of outraged parents fought for the information under freedom of information laws. But in the meantime, Team Blas encouraged similar changes in Manhattan’s District 2, then exploited the pandemic to impose sweepstakes on select schools across the city. And today merit admissions are only back to 30% of previous levels.
It’s likely a permanent change, as Chancellor David Banks let each district’s superintendent decide whether or not to allow selective admissions to return, and many refused – including District 2’s Kelly McGuire, who simply ignored the manifest fervor of parents to save school standards.
It’s easier not championing excellence against movements in the name of “fairness” that actually deliver mediocrity – at best.
Enrollment in public schools across the city is already plummeting, which will only accelerate the exodus.
A safety valve could allow for greater growth in charter, alternative public schools that provide new opportunities, especially for struggling low-income families in areas where regular public schools do not operate. But Team Adams isn’t defending them either.
One thinks of course of the recent decision by Banks, in all logic of collaboration with the town hall, to abandon long-standing plans to provide space for three new Success Academy elementary schools. It’s a signal that all charters will find it near impossible to expand, even if Blas is eventually gone.
Ideologues and special interest groups like the United Federation of Teachers don’t care what parents want or what children need; they prefer to reign supreme over a public education system that is dying – and a mayor and chancellor who surely know better will not fight back.
It’s a tragedy in (not very) slow motion.