David Banks’ brutal honesty on why families are fleeing NYC public schools

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“We’ve broken the trust,” schools Chancellor David Banks rightly declared to a roomful of Department of Education officials Wednesday. Over the past five years, “120,000 families decided to vote with their feet and to say, ‘We are going to find other alternatives and other choices’ for their children.”

This exodus from DOE schools “is an indictment of the work that we have done.” And COVID accelerated the rush out: January data show that DOE K-12 enrollment fell 5.6% this year to roughly 821,000 students.

With brutal honesty, Banks ripped the system’s dismal proficiency rates for black and Hispanic students despite spending $38 billion a year. But the failure is larger: The city Independent Budget Office reports that a full 16 percent of white kindergarten students did not return to a city public school for the 2020-2021 school year, an increase in a trend that became pronounced as the last mayor waged war on excellence.

Banks is slowly turning the ship, vowing to “scale [up] excellence all across the system.” Instead of ending accelerated learning programs, as his predecessors sought, he means to bolster them. He’s also moving to stronger, de-politicized reading and math instruction and boosting school safety.

He’s also eliminating the “executive superintendents” created by then-Chancellor Richard Carranza, which left 46 superintendents for the city’s 31 local school districts. In place of extra bureaucracy, Banks promises added funding and personnel for borough superintendents. He’s also stripping away the red tape that stifles school-based innovation and granting principals more autonomy.

“I didn’t come here to play at being chancellor. I came here to make a real difference,” Banks told the assembled bureaucrats. All New Yorkers should pray he pulls it off. The city desperately needs a schools chief who can put the children’s needs ahead of the adult “stakeholders” who’ve been running the system to serve their own interests.

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