Success Academy parents vs. New York charter school bullies

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.  (AP)

On Monday, March 17, 19 parents who send their children to Success Academy, a Harlem charter school, filed suit in federal court to stop New York Mayor Bill de Blasio from denying them previously arranged space in a public school building. Without space, their children and 173 others will not be able to continue at Success Academy this fall. 

School bullying is a problem nationwide, but in New York the bullies are de Blasio and his pals -- state NAACP President Hazel Dukes and the teachers unions. Their targets are middle school kids who are 97% minority and 80% eligible for lunch assistance. 

Overcoming disadvantages, these middle schoolers have soared to the top 1% city wide in overall student achievement. The fifth graders rank first in New York State in math – surpassing students in Bronxville, Scarsdale, and other wealthy New York suburban school districts where resources are available at school and at home.


So why try to force the closing of this successful school? De Blasio, who sounds like a communist, is outraged that charter schools receive donations from “very wealthy Wall Street folks.” The parents’ legal complaint documents how de Blasio targeted their school during his mayoral campaign last fall, vowing to make the school pay rent, something other public schools don’t have to do.

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De Blasio’s fellow bully, Hazel Dukes, blasted the lawsuit Tuesday. She called the suit “an outrageous and insulting attempt by Wall Street hedge fund managers to hijack the language of civil rights in their shameless political attack on Bill de Blasio.” 

Sadly, it is Dukes who is playing the race card for political gain, and sacrificing minority children.

Consider what another Success Academy called Bronx 2 is doing to educate minority students. In that charter school, 97% of the students passed state exams in mathematics and 77% passed English. In math, the school ranks third in the state, besting schools in well heeled suburbs. 

Bronx 2 shares space with a district public school, but the kids stuck there under the thumb of the union and city bureaucrats, are failing. Only 3% passed the state English test. Same building. But a world of difference. 

Which school is giving kids their civil rights? Not the one Dukes and de Blasio are defending. 

This is not just a local scuffle. Across the nation, teachers’ unions and civil rights opportunists are planting themselves on the school house steps, determined to stop school choice and the emergence of charter schools that serve minority kids, rather than union bosses.

Despite this opposition, charter schools are blossoming. 

In the 2013-2014 school year, 600 more charter schools opened, and total enrollment increased 13% Still, nationwide enrollment is only about 2.5 million students. But in certain cities – New Orleans, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. -- charter schools are burgeoning and provoking opposition. 

Not from parents. But from socialist ideologues and union bosses. In New Orleans, where the district school system was uprooted by Hurricane Katrina, school choice has virtually replaced it. Now, roughly 90% of public school students attend charters. But that’s only part of the story. Nearly one third of the city’s students attend private schools their parents choose for them, many using vouchers to pay.

Early results reported by Tulane University’s Cowen Institute suggest school choice is working. More students are graduating from high school prepared for college or work.

Get ready for the bullies. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sued to stop school choice in New Orleans, arguing that it was getting in the way of the federal government’s 1975 court-ordered desegregation plan.

When parents protested that they wanted to be the ones choosing their kids’ school, not the federal Department of Justice, Holder’s lawyers told the court that parents lacked standing to make their views known.

If anyone has standing in their child’s education, it’s parents. And parents in New Orleans said that racial balance was less important to them than being able to choose a school that educates their child.

Ultimately, Holder had to give up.

Bullies often do, when you stand up to them. That’s what the parents at Success Academy are doing in the lawsuit filed Monday.

Betsy McCaughey, Ph.D. is chairman of Reduce Infection Deaths and a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research. A former Lt. Governor of New York, she is author of "Beating Obamacare." For more visit www.BetsyMcCaughey.com.