the next education mayor

De Blasio vs. Lhota: the edu-voter's guide to the final matchup

Screen-shot-2013-10-16-at-9.11.57-AMIf you’re like most New York City voters, you’ve already decided who you’re voting for in tomorrow’s mayoral election. (The latest poll puts support for frontrunner Bill de Blasio at 65 percent, and only 8 percent say they might change their minds before Election Day.) But if education is a top priority and you’re still on the fence, here’s the final rundown of what de Blasio and Republican candidate Joe Lhota say they would do as mayor and head of the nation’s largest school system.

Mayoral control

Both don’t want their power diluted significantly: De Blasio and Lhota have said that the mayor should appoint the majority of the members of the Panel for Educational Policy. But they also agree on that PEP members should serve fixed terms and not at the will of the mayor, which would give the body somewhat more autonomy from City Hall.

Charter schools

IMG_5679-e1381267550509The big divergence: Lhota has offered full-throated support of the city’s charter school sector, pledging to double the number of charter schools in the city and continue to support co-locating them in public space. De Blasio has said that well-funded charter school networks should pay rent and said “the city doesn’t need new charters.” He also would pause the system of co-locations—positions that have worried charter network operators and some parents.

The divide was on full display at the October rally charter school supporters held before marching across the Brooklyn Bridge, where Lhota greeted students and parents. De Blasio did not attend, though he has taken steps to appear moderate on the issue lately. “There are some very good charter schools, and I’m glad we have them,” he said in August.

Pre-kindergarten access

Similar goals, very different plans: De Blasio has made raising taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay for universal, full-day pre-kindergarten a centerpiece of his mayoral campaign. Lhota has painted himself as a “real” fiscal conservative, and is generally opposed to tax increases. “That’s not going to do one bloody thing to solve income inequity,” Lhota has said of de Blasio’s preschool plan, though he also supports expanding the availability of pre-K.

School closures

It’s a fundamental disagreement: Lhota has said that keeping low-performing schools open is “immoral” and that he would continue the Bloomberg-era policy of closing schools. De Blasio has called for a moratorium on school closures.

Letter grades

Another total divide: De Blasio has said he would stop issuing letter grades for individual schools, a hallmark of Bloomberg-era accountability. Lhota has emphasized his support for continuing to measure schools in multiple ways and would keep the letter grade system in place.

School support

Tentative ideas for a complicated topic: De Blasio has indicated that he supports giving more power to districts and would consider rethinking the network structure that currently provides support to schools. “Districts matter. … We need to find a way to get parents to be able to talk to someone at the district level; teachers, parents relating to leadership at the district level again,” he saidLhota has offered few specifics about how, or whether, he would make changes to the structure of support organizations.

Merit pay 

photo-12-e1382737140283Another divergence: Lhota has made paying teachers based on performance a central plank in his education platform, arguing that “The one piece that’s missing is working with the union for merit pay and changing their approach.” De Blasio doesn’t support tying pay to performance, something that the city teachers union has consistently opposed.

Specialized high school admissions

A pet issue: De Blasio has often spoken about his desire to amend the admissions process for the city’s nine specialized high schools, proposing a process that would use criteria beyond the Specialized High School Admissions Test to improve diversity in those schools. (De Blasio’s son Dante attends Brooklyn Tech, a specialized high school.) Lhota hasn’t spoken out on the issue, which would affect a small percentage of the city’s high school students.

Cell phones in school

Here, some unity: both de Blasio and Lhota say they want to end the ban on cell phones in schools. That’s a policy that has upset parents and City Council members have called “inconsistent and posssibly discriminatory.” It made de Blasio’s wife Chirlaine upset enough to approach Mayor Bloomberg about.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”