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Betsy McCaughey: When government bullies children

March 23. 2014 3:46PM

Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana recently told a Nashua, N.H., audience about his experience with a school bully. Bullying is a nationwide problem, but the bully Jindal was describing was U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who recently tried to crush school choice in Louisiana.

Last Monday, March 17, parents in New York City who send their children to Success Academy, a Harlem charter school, filed suit in federal court to stop another school bully, Mayor Bill de Blasio, from denying them previously arranged space in a public school building. Without space, their children and 173 others will not be able to continue at Success Academy this fall.

Across the nation, teachers unions’ and civil rights opportunists are standing on the school house steps, trying to stop the rapid growth of school choice and the emergence of charter schools that serve kids rather than union bosses.

De Blasio and his pals, state NAACP President Hazel Dukes and the teachers unions, are targeting middle school kids at Success Academy, where 97 percent of students are minority and 80 percent are eligible for lunch assistance.

Overcoming disadvantages, these middle schoolers have soared to the top 1 percent city wide in overall student achievement. The fifth graders rank first in New York State in math — surpassing students in wealthy suburban towns where resources are available at school and at home.

So why try to force the closing of this successful school? De Blasio, who sounds like a Communist, is outraged that charter schools received donations from “very wealthy Wall Street folks.” The parents’ legal complaint documents how de Blasio targeted their school during his mayoral campaign last fall, vowing to make the school pay rent, something other public schools don’t have to do.

De Blasio’s fellow bully, Hazel Dukes, blasted the lawsuit as “an outrageous and insulting attempt by Wall Street hedge fund managers to hijack the language of civil rights in their shameless political attack on Bill de Blasio.”

Sadly, it is Duke who is playing the race card for political gain, and sacrificing minority children.

Consider what another Success Academy in New York City called Bronx 2 is doing to educate minority students. In that charter school, 97 percent of the students passed state exams in mathematics and 77 percent passed in English. Bronx 2 shares space with a district public school, but the kids stuck there under the thumb of the union and city bureaucrats are losing out. Only 3 percent passed the state English test. Same building, but a world of difference. There is no question which school is giving kids their civil rights.

Despite opposition, charter schools are growing rapidly nationwide. In the 2013-2014 school year, 600 more schools opened, and total enrollment increased 13 percent. Still, enrollment is only about 2.5 million students. But in certain cities, charter schools are expanding rapidly and provoking opposition.

Not from parents, but from socialist ideologies and union bosses behaving like bullies. In New Orleans, where the district school system was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, school choice has sprung up to replace it. That’s the story Jindal related to the Nashua audience.

Roughly 90 percent of public school students in New Orleans attend charters. And that’s only part of the story. Nearly 1/3 of the city’s students attend private schools their parents choose for them, many using vouchers to pay. Early results indicate students are doing better, and more are graduating.

Get ready for the bullies. Holder sued to stop school choice in New Orleans, arguing that it was getting in the way of the federal government’s 1975 court-ordered desegregation plan. When parents protested that they wanted to be the ones choosing their kids’ school, not the federal Department of Justice, Holder’s lawyers told the court that parents shouldn’t have standing to make their views known.

If anyone has standing in their child’s education, it’s parents. New Orleans parents said that racial balance was less important to them than being able to choose a school that educates their child. Ultimately, Holder had to give up.

Bullies often do, when you stand up to them. That’s what parents are doing, all over the nation.

Betsy McCaughey is a former lt. governor of New York State and author of “Beating Obamacare 2014.”

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