The biggest big-city superintendents push charters

The new chiefs of the nation’s three biggest school districts have shown in recent days what they all have in common: an embrace of charter schools and school choice.

Just today, newly appointed New York schools chancellor Dennis Walcott told a radio interviewer that it was time to lower the rhetoric on the contentious issue of charter schools versus non-charter schools, according to The Associated Press. Charter schools and traditional public schools should compete with one another, Walcott said.

This is similar to statements made by new Chicago schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, whom Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel plucked from New York State last week. Chicago news media have made much of Brizard’s support of charter schools in their coverage over the past week, but it was Brizard’s own op-ed published three years ago in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that speaks to his larger philosophy of public education:

We need innovation! As superintendent of a large public school system, I support the creation of great options for students. I support charter schools, charter management organizations, our Urban-Suburban program and others that provide or will provide options for our city and its residents. This will create competition and keep our system agile and responsive. One size does not fit all!

The third chief to make headlines is John Deasy, who officially took over the Los Angeles Unified School District earlier this month. The Los Angeles Times today reported that Deasy hired a retired senior L.A. Unified administrator named Maria Casillas, a charter school advocate who’s been vocal in her support of the Compton parents trying to convert their elementary school into charter. Casillas will be Deasy’s top parent and community liaison, a job that pays $170,000 a year, the Times reported. Casillas currently serves as president of the nonprofit Families in Schools, which developed a Los Angeles program to create a “pathway to parent empowerment,” according to the program’s Web site.

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BY Adam Emerson

Editor of redefinED, policy and communications guru for Florida education nonprofit