Tag Archives: Eva Moskowitz

Who is Responsible for the Demise of Mayoral Control? Eva

Years ago I served on the teacher union negotiating team in New York City.  We started with formal meetings across the table with thick briefing books; each side presented “demands” and the other side agreed, disagreed or put aside for further discussion. Slowly, the number of “demands” was pared down to the core issues. We discussed an issue and management would respond, “We have to discuss among ourselves, we’ll be back in an hour.” The hour turned into two and three and more hours as management consulted with the city and school boards and “other interested parties.”

The ultimate decision-makers were management, the Board of Education, and the union; however. neither side wanted other organizations to publicly trash the ultimate settlement; consensus settlements are essential

In 1975 the negotiations began in the spring and moved through the summer as the differences narrowed, days before the start of school the city pitched toward default and layoff notices went out to  14,000 teachers. We rapidly moved from “Lets’ keep talking and start the school year” to a strike vote.  I still vividly remember the Delegate Assembly, after almost two days of around the clock negotiations, a strike vote was almost unanimously voted by the thousand plus delegates and teachers walked the picket line.

After a week on strike and a complex agreement teachers returned and later in the fall the union actually loaned the city money to avert default. (Read “How the UFT Saved the City” here) and in a couple of years all laid off teachers were offered jobs.

The 2002 mayoral control law in New York City has a sunset clause – unless it is extended the law sunsets, expires, the city returns to the previous management structure – a seven member board, one member appointed by each borough president and two by the mayor. In May the city would conduct school board elections in the 32 community school districts.

Under Mayor Bloomberg the legislature extended the law for multiple years, in 2009 the law did expire, the central board met and “re-hired” Chancellor Joel Klein and in August the legislature held a special session and renewed the law for multiple years.

This year the key players are the leader of majority Democrats in the Assembly, Carl Heastie and the Republican leader in the Senate, John Flanagan and Governor Cuomo.

Why is Flanagan, who represents a district on the north shore of Long Island, with no charter schools, such an avid supporter of charter schools?

The answer, in my view, is simple: dollars from national supporters of charter schools, i.e., Walmart, etc., and the major player: Eva Moskowitz

Eliza Shapiro at Politico writes,

“Moskowitz has run the network with the ferocity and urgency of a political campaign, with City Hall press conferences attacking the mayor, selectively placed op-eds and leaks in friendly media outlets, and a robust lobbying infrastructure in Albany that has helped cultivate support from Republican legislators outside the city.” 

“In January, during the fight over DeVos’ nomination, Moskowitz released a statement saying the nominee had “the talent, commitment, and leadership capacity to revitalize our public schools and deliver the promise of opportunity that excellent education provides.”

Most charter schools are community charter schools, idiomatically referred to as “Mon and Pop” charter schools. The question of whether the cap should increased has no impact on these schools. The network charter schools, charter management organizations with multiple schools, have opposed Trump policies. The only supporter of Trump policies in the charter world is Eva Moskowitz.

Moskowitz’s name was conspicuously absent, for example, from a public letter protesting Trump’s education budget, signed by the leaders of KIPP, Uncommon and Achievement First — the three other major charter networks in New York City. Shavar Jeffries, the president of Democrats for Education Reform, sits on Success’s board, but has urged charter backers not to join the Trump administration.

While not sitting at the table, Eva clearly has veto power over any settlement. Flanagan needs the charter school dollars to fund campaigns to make sure the Republicans maintain their slim, very slim, one-vote majority in the Senate.

What happens next?

The legislature can return and extend mayoral control. or,

The borough presidents will appoint members to the central board and the current 13-member Panel for Education Priorities, nine appointed by the mayor will dissolve.

Three of the borough presidents, Reuben Diaz, the Bronx, Eric Adams, Brooklyn and Melinda Katz, Queens, will be candidates for citywide office four years down the road, all will be elected in November to their last term, they are term-limited. Maybe they’ll simply re-appoint Farina as their predecessors did in 2009, or, act independently to raise their own profile citywide.  Maybe they will question de Blasio/Farina education policies and encourage a public debate. In the past the borough president appointed members who were highly political, seeking political advantage for their borough president. (“political advantage” is a polite way of saying patronage).

Esmeralda Simmons, a professor at Medgar Evers College was a Dinkens appointee to the central board – I listened to her describe a totally politicized board (unfortunately no longer online).

While Regents members are ‘elected” by the Democratic majority in the Assembly to the best of my knowledge they are totally free to make any decision, and, the members are highly qualified.

If the Brooklyn selectee to a new central board is Brooklyn College professor David Bloomfield, the mayor selections NYU Metro Center professor David Kirkland and education advocate Leonie Haimson, and other selectees who are highly regarded educators and advocates, a central board selected for expertise and advocacy, no political loyalty, the return to a central board might be fruitful.

While community school board authority was limited by 1997 legislation the elections might be highly contentious. The powers of local school boards could be limited, or, expanded by the central board.

Back in November, 2013, weeks after the de Blasio election I mused over whether we would engage in a wide-ranging public debate.

Tyack and Cuban in their seminal “Tinkering Toward Utopia,” a study of the school reform movement over many decades emphasizes that reforms are only embedded if they are bottom up, reforms must reflect the changes accepted by teachers and parents.

Tyack and Cuban argue that the ahistorical nature of most current reform proposals magnifies defects and understates the difficulty of changing the system. Policy talk has alternated between lamentation and overconfidence. The authors suggest that reformers today need to focus on ways to help teachers improve instruction from the inside out instead of decreeing change by remote control, and that reformers must also keep in mind the democratic purposes that guide public education.

The current reforms, regardless of their value, have been imposed from above. As teachers ask questions, push back, the administration shoves harder and harder, resulting in increasing frustration and hostility within schools.

The debate is currently over should we have districts or networks, the details of the teacher evaluation plan, letter grading of schools, closing of schools, etc., rather than the larger and more significant question: what are our core principles?

Do we want to continue a system based on choice and accountability, or, move to a system based on equity? Do we want a system driven by top-down proscriptive, requirements, a compliance-driven system, or, a bottom up system with key instructional decisions made at the district/school level?

Do we want a school system built around communities with a heavy dose of parent and community involvement or a school system driven by the goals of the mayor?

Do we want a school system in which parents, teachers and school leaders play a role in establishing policies at the school level, and if so, how do we monitor progress?

What are the “big ideas” that should drive teaching and learning in the 1800 plus schools?

Clearly, we have made substantial progress, clearly we have a long way to go. Past experience tells us that “politics as usual,’ behind the scenes wheeling-and-dealing for political advantage, would be destructive of all the gains over the last four years; returning to a central board without a selection process free from politics is returning to a seriously flawed management system. The current structure is far from perfect, some of my suggestions above are still absent from the mayoral control management model.

In my view the failure of achieving an extension of mayoral control is directly traceable to Eva Moskowitz – she holds millions of dollars to fund Republican campaigns in her grip, and, Flanagan and company could not afford, in political terms, to ignore her.

Not only is mayoral control being held hostage, so are the tax extenders that are crucial to supplement the budget of many upstate cities; if the tax extenders are not passed these communities will face staggering cuts in services.

As the legislature swirled toward adjournment a change was made in SUNY regs that allow charter schools to hire unlimited numbers of uncertified teachers and certify the teachers themselves – no edTPA, no exams at all (Read the story and link to the regulations here)

Gideon John Tucker (February 10, 1826 – July 1899) was an American lawyer, newspaper editor and politician. In 1866, as Surrogate of New York, he wrote in a decision of a will case: “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”

Not much has changed.




The Eva Moskowitz Saga: Will the Public Tolerate Zero Tolerance? Will Eva Move to the National Scene?

Eva Moskowitz was a member of the New York City Council from the Upper East Side of Manhattan – probably the highest income electoral district in the nation. New York has a “strong mayor” system of local governance – the fifty-one members of the council elect a speaker, who, along with the mayor, runs the city. The council members, overwhelmingly Democratic, rarely have contested votes, the speaker controls the membership. Each council member gets a few millions to distribute to district projects and use the office as a bully pulpit to advocate for their next job on the elective ladder.

Eva was appointed as chair of the Education Committee, and, surprisingly and unfathomably, used her position to attack the UFT contract. The union negotiates with both the mayor and the chancellor; the City Council has no role in negotiations. Committee meeting after committee meeting she criticized some element of the collective bargaining agreement. At the end of her term, she was term limited and ran for the open position of Borough President of Manhattan. In a nine-way race Moskowitz was defeated by Scott Stringer, an Upper West Side member of the New York State Assembly; needless to say the union was heavily involved and supported Stringer (I was at the victory party for Stringer!!)

Eva, defeated at the polls, jumped from the City Council to the world of charter schools with the total support of Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Klein; deep pocketed supporters began to rapidly build the Success Academy network of charter schools.

Eva’s access to Klein was unparalleled, a NY Daily News FOIL request, vigorously fought by the city, unearthed an amazing exchange (Read NY Daily News article here  and a detailed analysis of the hundreds of emails here) of e-correspondence.

Klein and Eva were soul mates, anything she wanted in a school she received, they discussed politics on the local and national level, and the emails had the feel of two lovers or a doting father figure.

With the exit of Bloomberg and Klein the city was led by a mayor far less amenable to charter schools and Eva immediately went on the attack. Governor Cuomo, her newest “best friend” passed legislation forcing New York City to either provide space in a public school or pay the rent for leased space. The rumors began to spread – was Eva the candidate to run against de Blasio in 2017?  Ambition was not lacking and on the steps of City Hall Eva denied she was running for mayor – three years before the election, (Read previous blog post here) with plenty of time to change her mind.

In the world of politics rises and falls can be unanticipated and precipitous. While accusations that the Success Academy Network forced out low performing students the charges never gained traction. In the fall the press unearthed a principal of a Success Academy school who maintained a “Got-To Go” list – low performing students who were targeted for moving out. The Success Schools are tightly run, the instruction is carefully scripted, and you see the same leadership style and instructional strategies in schools across the network; the criticism that excellent tests results were more “addition by subtraction,” forcing out low performers, began to gain traction.

In January a group of parents filed a federal complaint accusing the Success Network of discriminating against children with disabilities, a charge vigorously denied by Moskowitz.

On February 12th the NY Times published a highly unusual article; it included a video clip entitled, “A Momentary Lapse or Abusive Teaching?”

In the video, a first-grade class sits cross-legged in a circle on a brightly colored rug. One of the girls has been asked to explain to the class how she solved a math problem, but she has gotten confused.

 She begins to count: “One… two…” Then she pauses and looks at the teacher.

The teacher takes the girl’s paper and rips it in half. “Go to the calm-down chair and sit,” she orders the girl, her voice rising sharply.

“There’s nothing that infuriates me more than when you don’t do what’s on your paper,” she says, as the girl retreats.

The teacher was not an inexperienced novice; the teacher was a “model teacher” who demonstrated effective practice to other teachers.

The video exposed the instructional philosophy of the network – what is referred to as zero tolerance – defined as a negative reinforcement to extinguish undesirable behaviors.

Kathleen De Cataldo, Executive Director of the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children sees zero tolerance policies as a first step in the “school to prison” pipeline,

School policies and disciplinary practices that discourage students from remaining in the classroom often lead to schools, directly or indirectly, “pushing” students out of schools. “Pushout” policies and practices include zero tolerance and ineffective misbehavior prevention and intervention policies, as well as leads to student disengagement from school.

Elizabeth Green, the editor of Chalkbeat and the author of “Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works” takes a much more nuanced approach to “no excuses;” Green summarizes attitudes,

On one side of that debate: educators and parents who argue that the no-excuses approach is not only defensible, but the only way to solve racial and class inequities in schools and beyond … the strong academic results of “no excuses” schools prove that the model only needs evolving, not fundamental change.

On the other side: An equally passionate group arguing that no-excuses practices are systematically abusive and a form of institutional racism, undermining any academic gains they may enable. These critics are not just speculators. They include people who have taught and still do teach at no-excuses schools.

And goes on to parse both sides in detail. The lengthy article details the charter school chains that espouse and defend a no excuses approach and counters the critics.

Green concludes.

Ultimately, I think that critics inside no-excuses schools are right that the no-excuses approach to teaching needs radical overhaul. The behavior first, learning second formula prescribed by broken-windows theory — and for that matter, by most American schools — can successfully build compliant, attentive students, at least in the short term. But it cannot produce students who think creatively, reason independently, and analyze critically.

Whether you refer to the schools as zero tolerance or “broken windows” or “behavior first” you don’t find such schools in middle class white environs. The issue of race hovers over the debate – is there something about students of color that requires a harsher approach, and, the crucial question, does the philosophy or policy prepare students for college and beyond or a method to identify a “talented tenth,” discard the majority for the benefit of a minority that can survive the outwardly abusive instructional/disciplinary practices?

The defenders of Moskowitz are hard to find, and, avid supporters may be beginning to have doubts. When Moskowitz refused to sign a standard contract with the city that allows the city to inspect pre-k programs for health and safety issues no one came to her defense and the state commissioner found no problem with the practice. Members of the Board of Regents openly asked whether the commissioner had the power to intervene and there is little question that legislation viewed as increasing transparency and fairness will be introduced – see bills already introduced here, here and here.

In December the Cuomo Task Force report tamped down the rhetoric and clearly the Governor is looking to repair frayed relations with public school parents and teacher unions. Whether the deep-pocketed funders continue to pour millions into Success is now open to question.

And for Eva…. maybe a high profile role in the Trump or Cruz presidential campaigns.

Success Academy Charter School Staff Diversity: Why is the Staff Overwhelming White? Tone Deaf? By Choice? A Diverse Workforce is Essential in the 21st Century.

The NY Daily News reports,

More than 1,000 city charter school teachers will rally for change Wednesday in Manhattan’s Foley Square, officials from a pro-charter school group said Friday.

Families for Excellent Schools’ CEO Jeremiah Kittredge said, “Great teachers change children’s lives every day, … Teachers will stand united to demand an end to this education inequality.”

Families for Excellent Schools is the very deep pocketed advocacy organization that pays for the TV ads, trashes Mayor de Blasio and the teachers union, and, refuses to disclose the source of their millions.

Most of the charter school teachers will come from 34-school Success Academy Charter network led by Eva Moskowitz.

As you look out over the crowd you’ll notice one striking factor – the teachers are overwhelming white. Charter schools proudly proclaim that their hands aren’t tied by union rules or other regulations, in fact, state law give them wide discretion in hiring, they can hire non-certified teachers. It is strange that they choose to hire a less diverse teaching force.

A recent report tallies the diversity among teachers in the Success Academy schools,

The information below was obtained by the Teachers Diversity Committee (TDC) of NYC from Success Academy charter schools that responded to our request. The percentage of white teachers at each Success Academy School is listed below for the 2013-2014 school year:
SA Cobble Hill 82%
SA Crown Heights 57%
SA Fort Green 100%
SA Harlem I 73%
SA Harlem II 63%
SA Harlem III 61%
SA Harlem IV 56%
SA Harlem V 76%
SA Hell’s Kitchen 89%
SA Prospect Heights 91%
SA Upper West 82%
SA Williamsburg 71%
SA Bed-Stuy II 80%
SA Bronx I 74%
SA Bronx II 66%

In 2012 58.6% of teachers in the NYC public schools were white. Out of the 15 Success Academy Charter schools listed above, 13 out of 15 have a higher percentage of white teachers than was the city wide average for public schools in NYC.

The Success Academy did not respond to requests for comment from the Teachers Diversity Committee of NYC, the source of the report above.

Why is the Success Academy network not seeking a more diverse teacher workforce?

Perhaps they will argue they cannot find enough “qualified” teachers of color, an argument that would be pilloried in the public arena.

Perhaps they will argue, they follow the law and are color blind in hiring, they hire the “best and the brightest” regardless of color or ethnicity.

Perhaps they aren’t getting many applicants from prospective teachers of color.

The pedagogy in the Success Academy schools is rote, highly disciplined and punishment, suspensions, are commonplace, perhaps the pedagogical/discipline practices chase away teachers of color.

John Merrow on PBS reports on the high levels of suspensions in kindergarten in the Success Academy schools, that’s right, suspending five year olds, watch the brief U-Tube,

The data on the impact of suspensions is indisputable; students who are frequently suspended are far more likely to drop out of school and far more likely to end up in the prison system – the school to prison pipeline. Perhaps teachers of color choose not to participate in a system that might raise test scores for some while driving out others and beginning their path down the pipeline to prison.

Lingering but unsaid: does race matter? Does the race of the teacher impact student achievement? Should schools, at the K-12 or the college level seek teachers who can serve as mentors, as role models for students of color?

The literature supporting mentoring/role model relationships is vast, at the K – 12 and at college level.

A few weeks ago I was at a tailgate before a football game, as a car passed the window rolled down and someone yelled out the name of the teacher who was standing next to me. A few minutes later, the former student wrapped his former teacher in a bear hug and exclaimed to everyone how the teacher had changed his life. A decade earlier he had been a black student in an overwhelmingly white school with an almost all white staff – the black teacher had “saved” the black student. Yes, an anecdote, a white teacher may have played the same role; however, in my experience role models are extremely important for kids, and diverse teaching forces provide opportunities for role models and developing mentor-mentee relationships.

Race alone does not make for a more effective teaching force; however, a diverse teaching force is vital for the staff as well as for the student body.

Charter schools have a unique “advantage” over public schools as far as test scores are concerned – they can force out the low performers, either through expelling a student for disciplinary reasons or making the student so uncomfortable that the parent withdraws the student. Charter schools also do not enroll the same percentages of students with disabilities or English language learners, and the students with disabilities that they do enroll have lesser handicaps that allow them to score higher on the state tests. If we compare “apples to apples,” general ed students to general ed public schools do as well or better than charter schools in the same district. An interesting study would be the impact of the force out charter school kids on the receiving public schools.

Success Academy and many other charter schools use a “no excuses” system – rigid rules, pre-scripted lessons, 100% focus on preparing for the state tests. The data is not encouraging. What percentage of entering kindergarten kids graduate to middle school in the fifth grade? The erosion of students is far higher than in public schools. Do charter schools fill the empty seats, seats vacated by students who are forced out? The answer is a resounding “no.”

What the Success Academy has been is very successful at attracting philanthropy. The larger charter school networks attract significant dollars to lower class size, train teachers, and provide high quality classrooms well-stocked with supplies. What is the per capita difference? We don’t know – the amount and use of the philanthropic dollars is not public information.

Whether the Success Academy network is simply tone deaf or is actively not seeking teachers of color, the result is the same. Diversity of staffs, for all-minority or all-white or integrated schools is essential.

To be perfectly honest I view with suspicion the hiring practices of the Success network – after all some of those black teachers may be secret Black Panthers, or, may be troublemakers, they may ask hard questions, let’s just only hire “safe” teachers, teachers who will keep their mouths shut and do what they’re told.

Ultimately I fear the Success practices will exacerbate not assuage student achievement gaps, graduation rates and college retention.

The Regents Have a Charter School Problem: Why Did They Grant Charters to Grossly Inadequate Applicants? Fumbling or Politics? The Public Deserves Answers

A couple of years ago I received a phone call, would I lead a team to write an application for a charter school, for a substantial fee? (I declined)

No, it’s not cheating, it’s standard practice. My school district was very successful in acquiring competitive grant dollars; they sought out the best grant writer who specialized in the topic of the grant. Potential charter school operators, I would suppose, also seek out the best writers; the content of the charter application may not reflect the capacity of the applicant.

The State Education Department (SED) website has impressive requirements for applying for a charter as well as monitoring the entire process.

The application is detailed and the State Department of Education (SED) in their guidance document sets a high standard.

The Board of Regents will only approve applications that clearly demonstrate a strong capacity for establishing and operating a high quality charter school. This standard requires a strong educational program, organizational plan, and financial plan, as well as clear evidence of the capacity of the founding group to implement the proposal and operate the school effectively.

Once approved the SED retains the right to monitor the performance of charter school,

… the New York State Education Department, is authorized to oversee and monitor each charter school authorized by the Regents in all respects, including the right to visit, examine and inspect the charter school and its records.

Additionally the SED requires specific actions in an opening procedures document, a monitoring plan, a performance framework and a closing procedures checklist

Unfortunately the SED will tell you there is no way they can monitor charter schools in the detail that the regulations allow; they simply do not have the staff. Once a charter school opens there is virtually no supervision for the initial five years.

What is disturbing is that the SED does not adequately vet the applicants, the members of the charter board.

Why did the SED not appropriately investigate the application for the Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School? The application is filled with blatant inaccuracies or outright lies.

Read through the falsehoods: http://jonathanpelto.com/category/steve-perry-capital-preparatory-magnet-school/

Steven Perry, the lead applicant, is a talk show host, an employee of a Connecticut charter school, the members of the board are also employees of the Connecticut school, and, the Hartford school has been a disaster.

The Hartford Courant reports (Read article: http://articles.courant.com/2013-11-21/community/hc-hartford-perry-tweet-1122-20131121_1_chairman-matthew-poland-capital-prep-magnet-school-steve-perry) that Perry, on his Twitter account physically threatened his critics after the State Board of Education refused to turn a low achieving elementary school over to him to run

From Perry’s Twitter account: The only way to lose a fight is to stop fighting. All this did was piss me off. It’s so on. Strap up, there will be head injuries.

Either SED failed to vet the applicants, or, the approval was politically influenced, I have no idea; however, there is no way that Perry should have been granted a charter.

The Rochester charter school, the Greater Works Charter School has a lead applicant who is 22 years old with a fraudulent resume – how did the SED not check out the creds of the lead applicant? The other members of the board have absolutely no experience in running a school and the apparent principal in waiting has no supervisory experience and is awaiting grades from her School Leadership exam. (Read applications here)

Single entrepreneur charter schools, schools that are not part of larger networks struggle, not only struggle, if you compare charter school general education kids to public school general education kids, (subtract students with disabilities and English language learners) schools in the district do as well as or better than the charter schools. On the state Common Core grade 3-8 tests, with the exception of the Success Schools, results were indistinguishable.

Success Academy schools; however, outperformed charter and public schools by a wide margin. A colleague who has studied the Success (Eva Moskowitz) Schools muses,

The secret sauce, if there is one: longer school days, incredibly hard-driven teachers and enough money to surround the classrooms with support services of many kinds (not counseling so much but administrative and paperwork support, parent outreach, materials, attendance follow up, etc.) And yes, test prep up the wazoo, and the attrition and backfill issue. They seem to think its fine to start with 72 kids and end up with 32, and that their results as a grade or class are as legit as a school that is taking a constantly churning population of students.

In the spring of 2013 a number of regent members asked the commissioner for a report on attrition: were the charter schools dumping low achieving and discipline problems especially before the state tests – a year and half later – no report.

I hope that the fumbling of the charter school application problem is simply poor management, not political interference, and, sadly, there is no evidence that charter schools have discovered a magic sauce, longer school days and longer school years do not make for more effective schools; it’s what happens in classrooms that matters. Schools with inexperienced school leaders and the churning of school staffs do not make for exemplary schools. Success Academy schools have shown that that more dollars, spent wisely, with the careful sifting out of lower achievers can lead to higher test scores. However, what do higher test scores mean?

Sherryl Cashin, a Georgetown Law School professor, and the author of “Place Not Race,” asks for the de-emphasis of standardized tests,

“We should de-emphasize standardized test scores… and compare the achievement of the students to the resources that they have available,” she said. “The valedictorian of Ferguson, Missouri deserves a leg-up. The person who has had to overcome these enduring structural disadvantages—I don’t care what color they are—needs and deserves a leg-up in admissions.”

Cashin reminds us the SAT scores only reflect the income of the parents of the test taker and that high school class standing (GPA) and resilience, defined as substituting academics for recreation are far better indicators of college success than SAT scores.

Until we understand that there are no magic bullets, charter schools are a delusion, a dead end, the answer, as it always has been is the ability of the school leader, the staff, and support from the larger school community.

Eva for Mayor in 2017: The Race is On …

For twenty years Republican mayors called the shots in New York, for the last twelve a pro-choice, pro-LGBT, environmentalist and pro-health mayor, a strange combination for a Republican in the era of the Tea Party. While New Yorkers tired of Mayor Bloomberg during his third term, aside from his education policies he had favorable ratings among New Yorkers. Bike lanes and parks circle and crisscross Manhattan, crime rates have plunged, visitors from around the world spend their dollars and immigrants from across the nation and the world flock to the Apple.

In the big picture New York thrived, in spite of 9/11 and in spite of the 2008 national economic meltdown, high-rise luxury building after building filled the skyline around Manhattan and Brooklyn, high end restaurants proliferated, wine bars charging sixteen dollars for a glass of cabernet with smokers puffing away in the smoking section, the streets outside of the bars.

Across the East and Harlem Rivers the economic gap widened, unemployment rates remained high, the city was moving in different directions.

New York City is “managed” by a combination of real estate developers, bankers, hedge fund managers, political elites, the same types who always run cities. One of our most famous citizens, Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the island of Nevis, from a single parent household, married Elizabeth Schuyler, from the Rensselaer family, “one of the richest and most politically influential families in the state of New York.”

In the Harvard Club or during breakfasts at the Regency or the Mandarin Oriental plans are being hatched.

In the spring of 2013 seven Democrats battled for the slot on the ballot, the Republicans battled among themselves, without a viable candidate. The elites, the power brokers were not unhappy, Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson; the two leading contenders were middle of the road democrats, not too far from the core of the Bloomberg ethos.

When the dust cleared Bill de Blasio motivated voters across the city – his “A Tale of Two Cities” campaign, his anti-stop and frisk rhetoric grabbed the attention of New Yorkers, well, enough New Yorkers.

de Blasio won the Democratic primary with 40% of the primary vote: 256,000 votes out of about 3 million registered Democrats; less than 10% of the registered Democrats voted for de Blasio. In the November election only 24% of all registered voters came to the polls.

The campaign for 2017 has begun.

de Blasio is simply too far to the left for the power brokers.

While his policies may reflect the views of most New Yorkers: more affordable housing, protecting rent control, raising the minimum wage, appointing pro-tenant members to the rent guideline board, and on and on, it may not translate into re-election. Melissa Mark-Viverito, the leader of the City Council is even further to the left – the City Council is dominated by the Progressive Caucus.

The de Blasio administration threatens the domain of entrenched old guard.

Campaigns never start too early and the 2017 campaign has began: Eva Moskowitz funded TV ads smacking de Blasio over his reversal of three charter school co-location decisions effecting only 194 students. The TV commercials were ready to go before the de Blasio decision was made!

Eva may be the perfect candidate.

New York City has never had a female mayor and 60% of voters are female.

She will be richly funded.

She is creating a voter base of charter school parents and wannabe charter school parents, primarily parents of color.

She is smart and aggressive.

Her supporters have four years to tear down de Blasio and four years to build up Eva’s resume.

About two years or so down the road Eva will leave the leadership of the Success charter school network and move on to another job to prepare for her run.

The NY Post will be relentless, slamming away at de Blasio every chance they get, the Wall Street Journal will join in on the editorial side. The Manhattan Institute has already begun the attack on the mayor. See Heather McDonald here and a sharp criticism of pre-k here.

In Albany the Republicans are in New York City attack mode, they passed a bill to undue Mayor de Blasio’s co-location reversals, in effect, reversing elements of mayoral control.

Parents from around the state are outraged by the impact of the Common Core State Exams and they have expressed their anger by encouraging candidates to oppose the four Regents up for re-election. The legislature ignored the parents, replaced one of the Regents with a candidate who had never applied for the position with an embarrassing lack of qualifications. Until parents can convert outrage to power at the polls they are not “players.”

Jerry Skurnik runs PrimeNY , the premier provider of election data: lists of prime voters, by district, by gender, by race, voting patterns, new voters, all the data needed to design a campaign. In the September 10, 2013 Democratic Primary election the teachers union endorsed Bill Thompson, spent significant dollars, made very attempt to bring the troops to the polls, and were not successful.

Bloomberg, virtually unknown in 2001 opted out of the NYC Campaign Finance system and spent many tens of millions of his own dollars; he repeated the efforts in 2005 and 2009.

Dollars determine elections, foot soldiers are nice, helpful, and nothing beats dollars.

Public school parents have yet to prove that they can influence the outcome of an election.

Teachers and public school parents will sneer – Eva Moskowitz can never get elected, au contraire, a well-funded, well run campaign can burnish any reputation, the TV ads of the last few weeks has shown what dollars can do. Governor Cuomo has suddenly become a fan of charter schools, the Senate Republicans, with Democratic support have jumped on the charter school band wagon. For the sans culottes, thousands of charter school kids have been driven onto the streets – in reality, 194 kids will have to either attend local schools or the charter school will have to rent space.

Dollars change minds.

de Blasio has two or three years to recover from his stumbling first few months, the battle is on … will de Blasio continue his “Tale of Two Cities” course, fighting to align the needs of the rich with the wants of the larger New York? Will de Blasio moderate and make peace with the power brokers?

The 2017 campaign is on, and, the big boys play for keeps.

A Review: “The Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.”

Jay-Z, A-Rod, and Diane! Superstars have instantly identifiable one-word names. Who would have guessed that a 75 year-old historian would seize the social media cyber world? With a dozen blogs and fifty tweets a day, with tens of thousands of followers Diane Ravitch has been the stalwart, the voice of reason in a sea of education critics.

We live in a world of advocacy research. We know the result of the research by the sponsor of the study. If The New Teacher Project, or the Gates Foundation sponsor a research project, the result will support the Duncan (de)form agenda; even in the word of academe we know what Eric Hanushek or Jay Greene on one side and Jesse Rothstein on the other are going to conclude. There is no middle ground.

Dr. Ravitch’s latest book, her tenth, could have been titled, “The Great School Wars, Part 2,” instead, “Reign of Error, The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.”

I frequently pull my 1974 copy of ”The School Wars” off my shelf, with a full page photo of Diane, to review the battles over the schools through history.

The “purpose” of “Reign of Error” is laid out in the opening paragraph,

“The purpose of this book is to answer four questions.
First, is American education in crisis?
Second, is American education failing or declining?
Third, what is the evidence for the reforms now being promoted by the federal government and adopted by many state.
Fourth, what should we do to improve our schools and the lives of children”.

The book is a work of scholarship, every claim is footnoted and the forty-one charts present evidence, not “evidence” from biased studies, the evidence that Diane presents, the facts, are not in dispute.

An evidence-based book is a shining light in a world of “Waiting for Superman” movies or sleazy accusations from Campbell Brown. From the US Department of Education to the National Governors Association to State legislatures education policy is based on a “hope and a prayer” rather than evidence.

Dr. Ravitch is a thorn in the side of the rich and powerful – she insists on proof.

In chapter after chapter she challenges unproven claims, charter schools, high stakes testing, principal-teacher accountability, 24/7 test prep driven instruction, vouchers, Value-Added Modeling (VAM), she asks, again and again, where is the evidence?

She challenges the assault on public dollars – the movement from publicly funded public schools to moving public dollars to the private side, the support for for-profit charter schools and the enormous costs of creating and supporting high stakes testing; highly profitable cyber schools, attempts to replace school staffs with automated software. Ravitch exposes, to use a harsh but apt term, the rape of public education.

Ravitch is neither on the left or the right, in fact, these days it is hard to define the left and the right. The Tea Party conservatives and the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) both see Ravitch as an enemy.

Diane is a centrist, she supports what can be best called the best of the past, be it John Dewey or Maria Montessori.

“Genuine school reform,” Ravitch concludes, “must be built on hope, not fear; on encouragement, not threats; on inspiration, not compulsion; on trust, not carrots and sticks; on belief in the dignity of the human person, not a slavish devotion to data; on support and mutual respect, not a regime of punishment and blame. To be lasting, school reform must rely on collaboration and teamwork among students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators and local communities.”

I finished the book on an intellectual high – how could anyone not read the “Reign of Error” and be convinced of the idiocy of the current destructive policies? Yet, Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz and Arne Duncan continue to badger and threaten and bluster.

Will Diane turnaround a decade of failed, selfish policies?

I hope the “Reign of Error” is a beginning of a new era in education.