Just last week, we learned that Michael "Noah" Bloomberg would pack his ark with four charter-converted Brooklyn Catholic schools. Unfortunately, though not unexpectedly, the seas for this journey are already proving stormy. "There are real concerns about whether this is parochial school education by another name," yelps Donna Lieberman of NY's Civil Liberties Union. Concerns over creaming, lingering religious influence, and curricular issues (specifically teaching sex ed, which is banned in Catholic schools but required by the city in public ones) abound. Even more problematic is a pesky state law banning the conversion of private schools (including those of parochial persuasion) to charter schools. Mayor Bloomberg will need to take his case to Albany to see the law changed. If we could cease the hand-wringing for one moment, we'd encourage New Yorkers to look south to D.C., which fretted its way through many of these problems when it converted 7 Catholic schools to charter last year. The legal challenges are certainly real, but let's give Bloomberg a chance to right the ship and take his case--and D.C.'s precedent--upstate before drowning the plan altogether.
"Hurdles for a Plan to Turn Catholic Classrooms Into Charter Schools," by Javier C. Hernandez, New York Times, February 15, 2009