Never in the history of New York City has a “bum’s rush” been more necessary and welcome. Even before Bill de Blasio, the Worst Mayor Ever, leaves office, the dismantling of his reign of disaster is beginning.
His successor, Eric Adams, takes office Jan. 1, and clearly understands the need to move quickly before more New Yorkers give up on their city. Adams has declared himself the new face of the Democratic Party and made a big down payment toward that end with his first major appointment.
“The cavalry is coming. Help is on the way,” he said at an animated press conference where he introduced David Banks, his pick for schools chancellor. And Banks himself didn’t waste time in proving his boss correct by targeting the bloated education bureaucracy.
As if speaking to the educrats directly, Banks asked, “If you left, and your job disappeared tomorrow, would that change anything that’s going on in any of our schools?”
He answered his own question by noting that “65 percent of black and brown children never achieve proficiency” on standardized exams, calling that “a betrayal” and adding: “Think about if everybody in the Department of Education went home and all the kids went to school, you could get those same results.”
His challenge is aimed at both the education blob and its puppet master, the United Federation of Teachers. Although usually regarded as a powerful force within the Democratic Party, the union did not endorse Adams in the crucial primary, meaning he is debt-free, and no UFT officials attended the Banks announcement.
The union stuck with a career ally, Comptroller Scott Stringer, who got a mere 6 percent of the vote. The result shows the union isn’t nearly the political heavyweight or savvy operator its reputation suggests.
Another sign the union will be on the outside looking in comes with Banks’ choice of Daniel Weisberg to be deputy chancellor. When he worked for former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Weisberg was part of the effort to get rid of bad teachers. The effort was only modestly successful, but the Weisberg appointment has the union worried Adams, who met with Bloomberg, will pick up the baton.
In key ways, Banks himself is an heir of the best of Bloomberg’s education reforms, which emphasized the creation of smaller schools and charters. A lawyer by training, Banks in 2004 started his first single-sex small school.
He named it the Eagle Academy for Young Men, believing that many black boys in particular needed more attention and a structured environment, including uniforms. He later started a successful fundraising arm, and there are now six Eagle Academy schools, one in each borough and one in New Jersey.
Adams, as Brooklyn Borough president, adopted the Eagle model in nine borough schools.
Banks’ out-of-the-box background helps explain the boldness he demonstrated in a series of impressive interviews.
Addressing the hot-button issue of Gifted & Talented programs, the chancellor-in-waiting said they would not be ended, as de Blasio wanted, but instead would be expanded to give more kids opportunities for admission.
“We shouldn’t be reducing them,” Banks told NY1, adding that it was unfortunate that “our parents are all kind of chasing after the handful of good programs. We need to expand on the programs.”
To underscore the point, Banks said his team would follow a similar approach on admission tests at eight specialized high schools.
“Those exams will stay as they are but we’re going to create even more opportunities for young people to go to specialized high schools,” he said.
For tens of thousands of parents, and many future parents, these are heaven-sent gifts. For just as children with physical and other special needs require targeted programs, children capable of accelerated learning deserve to have their “special needs” accommodated, too.
To argue, as de Blasio and many on the left do, that every student is gifted and talented is to equate participation trophies with excellence. Further, the sensational success of the vast majority of the students in accelerated programs justifies their high standards.
It is especially noteworthy that Adams and Banks, both of whom are black, are supporting Gifted & Talented and specialized schools at a time when most of the opponents focus on racial imbalances. At the most demanding schools, especially Stuyvesant and Bronx Science, upwards of 70 percent of students are Asian Americans, with black and Latino students combined scoring only about 10 percent of seats.
Given the lopsided outcomes, criticism often has an unmistakable anti-Asian bias. But with many of the Asian students living in poverty and being either immigrants or first-generation Americans, it would be smarter for mayors and chancellors to copy what Asian parents do to help their children succeed instead of punishing them by restricting admissions.
The other good news to come out of the Banks appointment is that he, like Adams, supports charter schools, which now educate about 145,000 students, or 14 percent of the city’s public school population. One test for Adams will be how hard he pushes Albany to raise the cap on city charters, which has been reached.
Yet based on what we know about them already, Adams and Banks stand head and shoulders above de Blasio and his series of failed chancellors. For eight years, they conducted race-baiting games and a war on merit that aimed to eliminate any admissions criteria that did not produce results mirroring the schools’ racial breakdown.
Fortunately, the mayor was so lazy and incompetent that he only recently announced his plan to destroy the Gifted & Talented programs, and now Adams and Banks have arrived to save them.
Of course, de Blasio’s failures were not limited to schools. Across the board, he almost destroyed the city, leaving his successor to face a seemingly endless list of critical problems.
Thankfully, Gotham will soon be under new leadership. And because of Adams’ appointment of Banks and his repeated pledges to tackle crime, the future is already looking brighter.
Hillary’s still stuck on ’16
Hillary Clinton got verklempt last week while reading the 2016 victory speech she never got to give. It was an odd decision and not a great speech, but think of the possibilities it raises. After all, who doesn’t want to hear what Jimmy Carter would have done in a second term?
Readers have concerns about President Biden’s fitness, with Carlos Hernandez doubting the commander in chief would know what to do if an electromagnetic pulse weapon was detonated above our homeland. He writes: “We’d be sent back to the Stone Age while Biden asks if this means his ice cream will melt.”
Vernon Weddle spots the president’s habit of tall tales, asking: “How long before Biden tells us about the day he walked on the moon?”