“One hundred million dollars?!?” Oprah Winfrey exclaimed incredulously as her studio audience gave a standing ovation. Sitting next to her was Mark Zuckerberg, the young billionaire CEO and founder of Facebook, who had just announced he would donate $100 million to help turn the failing school system in Newark, New Jersey into a national model.
Recently stumping for his cooperative federalism model of government-funded preschool, Barack Obama claimed that more money should be spent on these programs so that, in effect, women wouldn’t have to stay at home to take care of children. They should be working as the family’s core functions should be institutionalized by the state. This, of course, confirms what many on the Right think about these types of programs. They are back-door ways to ensure government gets more time with your children and you get more time at work, which you’ll need to pay the taxes for this program and the many other progressive bureaucracies.
Taking a different tack is Indiana Governor Mike Pence who says “This is a heart issue for me” when he urges renewal of his pilot program for government-funded preschool education.
Does that mean evidence-based debate on the subject is heartless? Well we’ll see.
New York Mayor De Blasio has been waging a war against charter schools – a reactionary attempt to protect the interests of teacher unions at the expense of poor and minority children. Happily De Blasio has already suffered a reversal of fortune at the hands of his own party and that reversal provides good news about the structure of democratic politics and its capacity to sustain liberty enhancing reforms.
On Tuesday, the governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, attended a rally of charter school supporters in Albany—an obvious riposte to De Blasio’s decisions to take money and property away from charter schools. Cuomo has ambitions to be President and it shows that even Democrats who count public unions as part of their coalition cannot ignore the crisis in public education and the need for reform.
Because the decline of public schools is rooted in no small part in centralized bureaucracy and in the power of teacher unions, solutions take the form of injecting more competition by such means as charter schools, vouchers and merit pay. These forms of competition are liberty enhancing and can help improve standards and increase innovation, particularly in big cities, where the jurisdictional competition afforded by different suburbs is absent.
One might think that teacher unions and bureaucrats as powerful interest groups could thwart these reforms, because they help only diffuse and relatively powerless groups like parents and students.
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York has a lot of dubious policies. He is blocking some developers from building homes until they build the kind of homes he prefers. He wants to raise taxes to pay for programs that the state would otherwise fund. But by far the worst of de Blasio’s policies is his declared war on charter schools, which is actually a defense of an ancien regime of unearned privilege.
During the mayoral campaign, de Blasio promised to halt the growth of charter schools and require those that were already in place to pay rent to the city But why should one form of public schools be singled out for paying rent, when the city provides the buildings for all other kinds of public schools gratis, particularly when charter schools do not pay out the kind of defined benefit pensions that burden the taxpayer? De Blasio made his declaration in the form of personal attack on a leader of New York charter school movement, saying ““There is no way in hell that Eva Moskowitz should get free rent, O.K.?.” True to his word, de Blasio last week used his power to deny Success Academy Charter Schools which Moskowitz runs the right to city facilities that Mayor Bloomberg had granted. Even more alarmingly, de Blasio also cut $210 million from the city budget that over 5 years would have built facilities for many new charter schools.
Through competition, charter schools are likely to improve education for children in poor and minority families—the very groups that Mr. De Blasio says government should help.