Education Reform

Ka-Ching! The Charter Lobby Buys into NYC’s Mayoral Race

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In a crowded field of candidates in the Democratic primary, only two are opposed to expanding the number of charters in a city with hundreds of them: Scott Stringer and Maya Wiley.

The other candidates support more charters at a time when the national Democratic Party seems to realize that charters are a key component of the rightwing’s longtime goal of privatization of the public schools. Charter advocates started a PAC for Eric Adams. Andrew Yang supports charter schools and is advised by former Mayor Bloomberg’s advisor Bradley Tusk (Bloomberg was very pro-charter). Financier Ray McGuire’s campaign relies on Bloomberg’s chancellor Joel Klein for advice (his campaign manager is pro-charter).

Betsy DeVos loves charter schools, so does the anti-union Walton family and Charles Koch. Across the country, Republican legislators and governors are passing legislation to expand charters and vouchers, while Democrats put public schools first.

This article explains how deeply entangled one of the candidates is with the charter industry. Dianne Morales has pitched herself as the most progressive candidate in the field, but neglects to mention that she was a Pahara Fellow or that she has long-standing ties to charter world.

Those ties are now producing an outpouring of contributions from the charter industry. And Kathryn Garcia, who was endorsed by the New York Times and the New York Daily News, declared recently that she wants more charter schools in the city and will ask the legislature to raise the cap.

There are currently 267 charter schools in the city. Of 1.1 million public schools in the city, 88% are enrolled in the long-neglected public schools. Ironically, by handing off more students to charter schools, the mayor (whoever it may be) is acknowledging his or her own incompetence as leader of the city’s schools.

At the beginning of the campaign, Scott Stringer was the favorite. He served in the legislature, and he is currently the City Comptroller, meaning he has detailed knowledge of the budget and the city’s massive bureaucracy. The United Federation of Teachers endorsed him, along with many progressive groups. But then a woman stepped forward to say that 20 years ago, when they were both single, he groped her. Many of those who endorsed Stringer withdrew their endorsements. Although I have a tendency to believe women in these situations, I think it’s unfair to discredit a candidate based on an unverified allegation. Stringer has been a candidate many times, and the accuser remained silent.

The charter industry has demonstrated time and again that it has the deep pockets to buy elections. What it has not bought is academic success.

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