Mayor de Blasio’s Curious Management Style
Robert Knakal March 18, 2014, 6 a.m.
For those of you who are familiar with Massey Knakal’s operating platform, you know that I spend 95 percent of my time brokering property sales and my partner, Paul Massey, spends the majority of his time running our company.
The other day, I approached Paul with a new idea to help the overall performance of the firm. I suggested to him that we terminate a lot of our top performing agents so that management could spend time working with the struggling agents to make them more productive. Paul looked at me as if I were crazy. You are probably thinking the same thing.
After all, what if the best sports teams cut some of their best players to allow coaches to focus on the players who are not so good? Imagine if this happened in any type of environment, where the best performers were abandoned to focus on those who were not performing so well.
On face value, this approach doesn’t seem to make much sense but yet it is exactly what the current local administration is doing to our public school system.
Charter schools have generally outperformed non-charter public schools by a significant margin, yet the new administration seems to want to abandon these schools in the name of being able to focus more time, attention and resources on the schools that are not doing so well.
Recently, the administration took the position that they would overturn the Bloomberg administration’s approval of the expansion of nine charter schools, three of which were Success Academy schools ranked among the best in the city. Not only has the mayor taken positions against these schools, but also the public advocate is trying to create tremendous uncertainty for charter school kids by delaying the April 1st lottery deadline. And even the speaker of the City Council has gotten into the act by trying to stifle the impact charters have.
It is important to realize that the status of our school system is vitally important—to our local economy, our commercial real estate market and our future.
We must realize that new technologies are eliminating many unskilled jobs and jobs which do not require a tremendous amount of thought. Jobs of the future will require thinking and the best way to learn to think well is to be well educated.
Certainly our future is dependent upon the quality of our school systems and the school system in our country is doing a relatively poor job of educating our young people. Many point to the fact that the teachers’ union wields so much power, both in terms of political endorsements and the ability to fund campaigns, that politicians will advocate for the union’s position rather than advocate for the children. There is, however, no excuse for politicians who take a good thing from kids just to satisfy a political agenda.
The major difference between the charter schools and the non-charter public schools are that the charters are run privately (even though they are public schools) and the teachers are nonunion. This means that if they don’t perform well, they can be terminated. In the public school system, teachers who don’t perform well keep teaching.
The co-location of charter schools in other city school buildings is something that was approved in legislation dating back to 1998. The State Assembly overwhelmingly approved the charters schools act back then. Today, 70,000 students attend charters out of the 1.2 million students in the city.
It appears that Success Academy’s Harlem Success 4 is a target of the administration. 97 percent of its students are minority, 15 percent have disabilities, 80 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunches and 12 percent are English language learners. Remarkably, the school’s students rank in the top 1 percent citywide in student performance.
Given that the performance of the charters is generally substantially better than the non-charter public schools, it is perplexing that charters are not more widely endorsed. Moreover, it is puzzling that the non-charter schools do not revert to a charter-like system since the charters have developed a better mousetrap.
Fortunately, Governor Andrew Cuomo is sticking up for the children, vowing to find space for the charters that have been displaced by our new administration in New York City. For politicians to take a good thing away from kids just to satisfy a political agenda is outrageous. They are effectively throwing poor children from hard circumstances out of good schools. This is destructive and nothing more than political pandering. For the future of our city and the future of our country, let’s hope that some sanity gets infused into the conversation about how our school systems will be reformed moving forward.