Media Pile on de Blasio

Newly elected politicians usually get a “honeymoon” period from the media. Bill de Blasio did not. 

Since taking office on January 1, the mayor has been pilloried by the Daily News, The New York Post, and some local TV and radio stations for allegedly not cleaning up snow on the Upper East Side, for keeping city schools open in a February snowstorm, and for his police-driven caravan going well above the city’s speed limit, two days after he announced his plan to lower it to 20 mph. 

These media squawks pale before the all-out tabloid assault on the mayor’s education policies, set off Feb. 27 when Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña rejected plans to have three charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately owned and often privately subsidized,  “co-locate” in public schools, taking over space in their buildings.

Fariña also approved co-locations for 14 new charter schools, but the three she rejected were in former City Councilmember Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy chain. Moskowitz and the billionaires who have helped her build her empire went to war, charging that de Blasio was forcing poor black and Latino kids to stay in “failing” public schools in order to please the teachers’ union. The News and the Post echoed that line. 

On March 4, when de Blasio was holding a rally in Albany to lobby for his plan to tax the rich to expand pre-kindergarten and after-school programs, Moskowitz closed her 22 schools for the day and bused many of their 6,700 students and their parents to the capital. Dueling rallies! The media gleefully reported that de Blasio’s event attracted only 1,000 or so and the charter rally 7,000 people—including Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A New York Times columnist opined that the mayor had “lost control of his narrative.”

Suddenly the debate became not about how to pay for expanded pre-K and after-school programs for middle-school students, but over whether Bill de Blasio is being fair to charter schools. Careful readers have learned that Fariña had valid reasons for rejecting the Success Academy co-locations: Two would have placed elementary-school pupils in high schools, and the third would have eliminated seats and therapy programs for special-needs students, many of them autistic.

Most of this criticism comes from the same media barons who last year denounced de Blasio as a radical leftist once his message about income inequality began resonating with voters and he began surging in the polls. Hardly a day went by without a tabloid attack saying his promise to reform stop-and-frisk would surely take New York back to the bad old days, and that his proposal for a mild tax increase on the rich was class warfare.

Perhaps there is no issue that separates Mike Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio more than public education. Bloomberg demonized teachers, ignored parents, and hired business managers to run the school system, while giving Eva Moskowitz carte blanche. De Blasio has chosen an actual educator, one who spent four decades as a teacher and principal, and came out of retirement to take the job.