Harlem proves moms and dads are clamoring for school choice
The parents of Harlem have been given the wonderful benefit of school choice - and they're taking full advantage of the ability to select the best educations for their children.
Long trapped in dead-zone local schools, Harlem's mothers and fathers are figuring out that they now have a remarkable range of options. That's because charter schools have blossomed in the community, making the neighborhood a national epicenter for reform.
The demand for better was on full display over the weekend, when 5,000 people turned out for the first Harlem Education Fair, an event at which parents got to consider the merits of 50 schools. And at which those schools competed for enrollments.
Among competitors were traditional public schools - getting more than a run for their money now that Harlem has 24 charter schools, with a student body of 6,000 and growing.
Parents citywide should be so lucky as to be able to pick where to send their kids after studying the quality of education the schools vow to deliver.
Harlem's District 5 has been a victim of educational neglect by a system with a monopoly on public education. More than 70% of the district's eighth-graders and half the third-graders don't read at grade level.
Now, thanks to Mayor Bloomberg's commitment to school choice, parents are leaping to charter schools, which are publicly funded and privately run. They admit by lottery. And their children are thriving.
Last year, more than 84% of city charter school students scored at or above grade level on math exams, compared with 74% in traditional public schools. In English, 67% met or exceeded standards, versus 58%.
This explains why tens of thousands of parents have kids on waiting lists for charter admissions. They want rigorous academics. They want a challenging curriculum. They want accountability. They want success.
Choice is the way to get it. Opening more charters would force all schools to raise performance. The obstacle is the Legislature, notably Assembly Democrats, who have capped charters in the city and state.
They are wrong. They are defending an atrocious status quo to the detriment of children. For when schools must prove their worth, the students come first. That was the message of the Harlem Education Fair. Which is as it should be. Not just in Harlem, but all over New York.