Ed Reform Rollback in New York City

Mayor Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-Independent, left an impressive record of achievement on school reform that contributed substantially to New York City’s shedding its reputation as the “ungovernable city.” The graduation rate rose by more than 20 percentage points and, leaving aside the years when the state recalibrated its evaluation framework, student-achievement rates in the city improved annually.

Relations with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) have become far more collegial under de Blasio than they were under Bloomberg. The de Blasio administration neither attained nor sought significant concessions from the UFT on fiscal matters or workforce rules. Including retroactive raises, teacher pay will increase by $9 billion over nine years. For the city, the net impact will be billions more.

Closing down large, chronically low-performing schools and replacing them with a greater number of smaller, new schools was central to Bloomberg’s expansion of school choice and his overall approach to the achievement gap. Dismissing studies that found that it had benefited students, de Blasio characterized Bloomberg’s closure policy as “an excuse not to address ways to help struggling schools improve.”

The role of the state, budgetary limitations, and an inability to say no to union demands will limit progressive mayors’ power over education policy in the future, both in New York and in other cities.

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