Right-wing media are painting a false picture of the education debate in New York City, portraying Mayor Bill de Blasio as against "minority children" while ignoring his city-wide push for universal pre-kindergarten (pre-K), a program that has been shown to improve minority students' academic performance.
On February 27, de Blasio announced that he would block three charter schools from operating in city public school space rent-free. Having inherited 45 total co-locations from his predecessor Michael Bloomberg, the mayor approved 36 of them, including 14 of the 17 charter schools that applied. This decision resulted in a firestorm of attacks from conservative media who distorted facts to claim de Blasio is waging a "war on children."
Those attacks have shifted to "de Blasio vs. minority children," a frame circling multiple right-wing media outlets, including National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, and The Washington Times. NRO's Mona Charen accused de Blasio of "training his fire on the poorest and most vulnerable," while Thomas Sowell's column, published in the Examiner and the Times, claimed that "If anyone wanted to pick a time and place where the political left's avowed concern for minorities was definitively exposed as a fraud, it would be now."
Pitting de Blasio against minorities isn't a new smear tactic for right-wing media -- the New York Post accused de Blasio of a "war on minorities" roughly one week after he clinched the Democratic primary last September.
Multiple studies have found universal pre-K to be highly beneficial. According to the Center for American Progress, three longitudinal studies on early childhood education "showed not only immediate academic gains but also benefits into adulthood, such as reduced need for public assistance, lower crime rates, and higher earnings." CAP also noted that recent studies have shown pre-K to be effective in "boosting school readiness and academic achievement," including gains in language, literacy, and math skills.
The results from a study on Georgia's pre-K program released last week held that the state's program "produces significant positive outcomes for children, regardless of family income level or English language skills." The scientist who led the evaluation claimed that the study's findings "demonstrate compelling evidence for the impact of Georgia's statewide early education program on children's readiness skills."
What's more, universal pre-K has been shown to improve the academic skills of minority students. The New America Foundation stated in previewing an October 2013 report detailing the benefits of pre-K that "early education is one of the most powerful ways to close the achievement gap between low-income and minority children and their more-advantaged peers." In addition, New America Media, in an article titled "For Minority Kids, Preschool Narrows Education Gap," reported on the benefits of pre-K for African-American and Latino students:
Research on the Chicago Child-Care Centers initiative, published in mid-2011, also emphasizes the positive effects of early education. The study, conducted among 1,400 low-income African American children who were observed for 28 years, show an increased high school graduation rate (50% compared to 39%), lower participation in special education (14% versus 25%), and better results on standardized tests of language and mathematics.
Among Hispanics, data from the Universal Pre-K program in Oklahoma conducted during the early 2000s by the Center for Research on Children in the United States (CROCUS) at Georgetown University, indicates that Latino preschoolers benefited the most from quality preschool. While all students showed improvements in letter and word recognition (+52%), spelling (+27%) and mathematical problems (+21), the progress among Latino children was even higher, at +79%, + 39 and + 54%, respectively.
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