Rethinking the Schools

| 17 Feb 2015 | 12:58

De Blasio's tax hike for pre-Kers is only the beginning

Just because there's a new tenant in Gracie Mansion doesn't mean public school issues won't continue to dominate in 2014.

Bill de Blasio, for instance, has promised to tax the rich to fund universal pre-kindergarten. But while that high-profile plan is executed, other school issues will continue to weigh on City Hall.

This year, New York schools will have to either find a way to acclimate to new Common Core standards of testing and assessment, or hope that the disastrous first year under the new standards will lead to reform or at least a step back from implementing them. Education advocates have called for de Blasio ? and Carmen Fariña, the newly appointed schools chancellor who was formerly a top official at the Department of Education ? to de-emphasize testing and return to a focus on support for teachers and encouraging parental involvement.

The other major flashpoint this year will be how the administration treats the growing influx of charter schools. De Blasio has already stated that he may require charter schools to start paying rent to the Department of Education, a major departure from the former policy of allowing these schools to co-locate with existing traditional schools, rent-free. That policy, if implemented, might force charters to look elsewhere for cheaper space than the DOE can offer, which would ameliorate one of the major criticisms of how the city treats charters now: that the co-location creates a "separate but unequal" learning environment, where building resources are given to the charter school students and their traditional school counterparts are forced to watch their peers get upgraded versions of everything.

This year will be the year that public school parents finally find out exactly what de Blasio has in store for their children. So far, he has been careful not to overpromise ? or give too many specifics. Now, succinct campaign promises will give way to complex realities of bureaucracy ? inescapable no matter who is in charge.