After Barack Obama gave a thousand campaign speeches on Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and the economy, one of his first actions upon taking office as president was to begin gutting a tiny school-choice scholarship program in Washington, D.C. And now newly inaugurated New York mayor Bill de Blasio has, as one of his first agenda items, begun the gutting of the city’s charter schools, which are public schools that operate with some limited measure of independence from the usual education bureaucracies. Like President Obama, Mayor de Blasio is here engaged in plain, naked payback, rewarding the teachers’ unions that funded and manned his campaign by taking hundreds of millions of dollars away from projects they despise. If a private city contractor had bankrolled the mayor’s campaign and been repaid by having him hobble its competition, we’d call it simple corruption. And it is simple corruption, legal though it may be.
Mayor de Blasio intends to redirect money from the city’s charter schools to help pay for expanded pre-kindergarten education, which is to say for a full-employment program for his union supporters. Expanding pre-kindergarten education is a questionable investment: The premier federal pre-kindergarten program, Head Start, has been shown time and time again to provide no lasting results to its supposed beneficiaries. Robust support for early-childhood education sounds like the sort of thing that should work, but the empirical results are that it does not deliver on its promises.