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Rebooting NYC schools means dropping ideology and embracing choice

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Rebooting NYC schools means dropping ideology and embracing choice

It’s a grim reality that should send shivers down the spines of parents considering a move to New York City: Gotham’s public-school students have lost more than a year of in-school learning due to the city’s bungled response to COVID. Even with the recent influx of kids ­returning to school buildings, the city will end the year with more than 60 percent of its students still fully remote.

As a result, public-school students have almost certainly lost ground to the 250,000 children enrolled in the city’s private and religious schools, many of which have been open for live instruction since September. Those in the charter schools are faring better, too; the remote-learning systems ­implemented by charters have been much more functional than those used by the city ­Department of Education.

The city’s new mayor will face educational challenges even bigger than those posed by the pandemic. To stabilize the city’s population and economy, he or she will have to convince young families with children that New York City is a place where they can safely raise their children and have them educated soundly. That’s going to be a tall order. But it isn’t impossible — if better philosophies prevail.

Mayor de Blasio and his recently departed chancellor, Richard Carranza, were more interested in lecturing parents about their privilege and alleged complicity in “systemic racism” than in improving low-performing schools. Rather than creating more successful schools, they tried to politically redistribute the scarce seats in existing high-performing schools.

De Blasio’s relentless harassment of successful charter schools like the Success Academy network, abetted by an equally clueless state Legislature, has blocked the expansion of the one intervention shown to dramatically improve educational outcomes for black and Hispanic students.

The next mayor needs to embrace charters, as well as the private and religious schools that have so thoroughly outperformed their public counterparts during this past year. Indeed, he or she must embrace the concept of educational pluralism, recognizing that different students require different types of schooling.

Gotham is home to 852 private and religious schools. These schools educate more than 55,000 black or Hispanic students, in addition to more than 112,000 students in the city’s growing Jewish and yeshiva communities. The city’s Catholic schools educate another 72,000 students, more than half of them black or Hispanic.

These schools offer an array of different pedagogical and curricular approaches. As long as they operate within broad state guidelines, they should be ­allowed to flourish.

The educational system under the new mayor should also ­embrace what some are now calling opportunity pluralism. The attainment of a four-year college degree isn’t the only legitimate outcome of schooling for all kids — and we shouldn’t operate high schools as if it is. Those who aren’t cut out for four-year college degrees deserve better ­opportunities and support.

The data bear this out. While the city’s high-school graduation rate has increased steadily over the last 20 years, many students leave high school unprepared for college. Still, they are encouraged into the city’s community colleges — where the graduation rate is below 30 percent after four years in a program designed to be completed in two.

Many of these low-performing graduates had entered high school already well behind their peers, and their needs should have been addressed at that point. Students like this should be offered the opportunity to follow a high-school track that would prepare them for successful entry into the workforce at the end of high school, rather than college.

Our community colleges must also work collaboratively with business leaders to develop and offer industry certificates that focus on concrete skills in various industries and that can be completed in less than a year.

The next mayor should pursue fairness and equity in our schools aggressively, but he or she must do that in concert with parents and by supporting those public, charter, private and religious schools that continue to provide excellence in education to all our communities. To do so would be a welcome change from the misguided efforts of the last eight years.

Ray Domanico is director of education policy at the Manhattan Institute. This column was adapted from MI’s “NYC ­Reborn” initiative.

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Opinion

Jeff Bezos exposed as the king of fake news

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Jeff Bezos exposed as the king of fake news

Wow: It now looks like Jeff Bezos and his damage-control team just made up not one but two whole stories to deflect coverage of his affair with a then-married woman: one, a claim that the Saudis had hacked his phone to get telling texts and revealing photos; two, charges that the National Enquirer tried to blackmail him into halting his investigation into how the shots had leaked.

Eventually, the world learned that the guy who sold the info to the Enquirer was Bezos’ girlfriend’s brother, a Hollywood press agent — no hacking required and nothing to make the Enquirer fear any “investigation.”

Brad Stone’s new book, “Amazon Unbound,” excerpted for Bloomberg News, details how a consulting firm helped the Amazon CEO assemble his false counterstory, which relied on the suggestion that he’d been targeted because his Washington Post was so critical of both the Saudi regime and then-President Donald Trump — and allowed him to reveal the affair himself while pretending he was being heroic by refusing to be blackmailed.

Pretty masterful while it lasted . . . except that the owner of The Washington Post (“Democracy dies in darkness” is its self-righteous Bezos-era motto) now stands exposed as a cynical purveyor of fake news who even tried to frame a media outlet to protect his own image.

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Opinion

No ethics needed for President Biden’s best buddies

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No ethics needed for President Biden’s best buddies

Packing his administration with Big Labor operatives matters more to President Joe Biden than his own much-ballyhooed ethics rules, and he’s not even embarrassed about it.

With great fanfare his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order mandating that all his appointees “in every executive agency” sign an “ethics pledge” that “contractually committed” them to refraining from participating “in any particular matter on which” they lobbied, along with “the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls,” for two years. They also couldn’t “seek or accept employment with any executive agency with respect to which” they lobbied for two years.

The media touted this “revolving-door ban” as far tougher than the Obama and Trump rules. Oops: It turns out Team Biden is handing out truckloads of ethics waivers to labor-union veterans.

The latest winner is Celeste Drake, Biden’s pick to head his new Made in America Office. Ethics restrictions that would have stopped her from communicating with previous employers the AFL-CIO and the Directors Guild of America won’t apply, Axios reports. “The successful accomplishment” of her “mission” requires “extensive, open and collaborative communications” between her office and Big Labor, a White House lawyer claimed in a disclosure memo.

In March, Team Biden waived rules for the Office of Personnel Management’s new director of intergovernmental affairs, Alethea Predeoux. Her work as the head lobbyist for the American Federation of Government Employees should have precluded her from any job at OPM.

Biden has given union hacks senior posts in the departments of Labor, Homeland Security and Education, as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (Not to mention letting the American Federation of Teachers dictate language to the Centers for Disease Control for its guidelines on school reopenings.)

And of course his larger agenda is one long union giveaway, from overturning state right-to-work laws to dumping trillions subsidizing and creating new unionized jobs.

Responding to the Axios report, a White House flack declared, “President Biden has stood strong for unions throughout his career, and he’s proud to have leading labor voices in the White House and throughout his administration helping to enact that agenda.”

In other words, ethics rules don’t apply to his besties.

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Opinion

I lived through NYC’s bad old days and know Eric Adams can get it back on track

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I lived through NYC's bad old days and know Eric Adams can get it back on track

Most of the mayoral candidates running in New York’s June 22 Democratic primary don’t seem to notice: The city is slipping back to the bad old days of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is the exception.

I was New York City Council president at that time; then-NYPD Sgt. Eric Adams used to come into my office to talk to me about the city, safety and crime, seniors and New York’s economic problems.

New York City was facing widespread lawlessness. Crime statistics were shooting up. Folks were fleeing the city. Seniors did not feel safe. Houses and apartments sold at bargain rates. Black and brown communities were suffering. The economy was down. The problems were endless.

Eric and I talked about crime, about increasing the police force and about the economy. He was worried about the city and its future.

Here we are again, 30 years later. And the choice we make for mayor will determine the future of New York.

Back then, Eric was smart, complicated and always thinking outside the box. He still is. Which is why I am going to vote for him: Eric Adams is the candidate who is going to move New York City ahead on the right trajectory. 

We cannot allow New York to once again become a city saturated with fear, insists Adams. At the same time, he notes, we face “a crisis of confidence in our police.” I agree: We can’t be asked to stand against the police; we must be for a better police force.

Some of the Democratic candidates talk about reducing the force. Yet Adams knows that if you don’t have a strong police force and a strong presence in every community, you’re not going to have a safe, strong city where jobs can come back for everyone.

He envisions a police force that connects precincts to the people and empowers communities to have a say in their precinct leadership. He’ll require the NYPD to keep lists of cops with records of complaints and violent incidents.

Meanwhile, the recent surge in shootings is frightening our seniors, our middle class and black and brown communities. Tourists don’t feel safe. Whether the shooting is in Times Square, Brownsville or Fordham Plaza, it must stop. Seniors are afraid to walk the streets in the middle of the day. Stray bullets are killing people.

Adams has the knowledge and the courage to staunch this spike. He believes New York’s economy will grow when the streets are safe. Small businesses can’t make a comeback until the streets are filled with employees.

Last Sunday, my good friend John Catsimatidis interviewed the beep on his radio show. Adams stressed that he’s concerned wealthy New Yorkers are leaving the city and believes a cleaner, safer New York would help keep them here.

“I don’t join the chorus that tells the 65,000 New Yorkers that are paying 51 percent of our income tax and are only 2 percent of our income-tax filers, I don’t join in the chorus that states, ‘So what if they leave?’” explained Adams. “I am just the opposite; I join the chorus that tells them, ‘We need you here.’”

Again, I fully agree. New York City is now in fierce competition with Florida and Texas to keep our financial leaders in the Big Apple. Florida’s cities are relatively new and clean — and they’re courting New Yorkers aggressively.

COVID-19 has driven many of our residents south, in search of more open space and sunshine. We’re in a really tough fight to keep these leaders of our economy here in New York, when other cities are offering them attractive alternatives and Zoom makes it possible to work from home.

I frequently run into folks who remember my investigation of nursing-home abuses and my advocacy for seniors and senior-citizen centers. When we talk about the mayor’s race they say, “We need a tough mayor who is going to stop crime and get the city on the right track.” They’re right. And that’s precisely why I’m endorsing Eric Adams for mayor.

Andrew Stein (D) was president of the New York City Council from 1986 to 1994.

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