As the Bloomberg era comes to a close and we prepare to welcome a new mayor, New Yorkers are all rushing to define Michael Bloomberg's legacy.
Much of that conversation is focused on the mayor's education record. That's due in no small part to the mayor's own urging: when he took office, Bloomberg asked to be judged by his record on schools.
But as the debate continues about whether schools are better today than they were 12 years ago, there is one part of Mayor Bloomberg's education legacy that will prove to be an enduring achievement:
Mayor Bloomberg put our schools front and center, cultivating public awareness of, interest in, and support of this City's 1.1 million students. He also encouraged the key notions that, (1) although there are problems that affect our public school system, those problems are fixable, and (2) that it is everyone's responsibility to care about and get involved in our school system to maintain a vibrant, thriving city.
In the early days of his administration Bloomberg wrestled for Mayoral control of the schools, and then moved the Department of Education's headquarters from Downtown Brooklyn to the newly renovated Tweed Courthouse, placing it in the heart of municipal government and signaling its literal centrality to the rest of the city. And since those early days, we've seen example after example of how the city has followed his lead in recognizing the importance of, and rallying to support, our public schools:
• The Fund for Public Schools -- the fundraising, nonprofit Partner to the Department of Education -- brought in a record $47 million for our schools and students last year.
• The "NYC Jobs Blueprint" released by the Partnership for New York City -- New York's most influential business association -- prioritizes better-educated and skilled workers whose public school education and experience prepare them to work in a complex, technology-based economy.
• CUNY and IBM partnered with Brooklyn's Pathways in Technology Early College High School, a new school that provides students with an Associate's Degree in technical fields and helps them get their foot in the door at a Fortune 500 Company. Based on its success, the school is being replicated far and wide: President Obama -- who referenced the school in his State of the Union address -- set aside $300 million for similar schools nationwide.
• This fall, the DOE will launch the Software Engineering Pilot program, which will provide around 1,000 middle and high school students with computer science and software engineering curriculum -- an important step in making New York City the next Silicon Valley.
This citywide interest in schools that Mayor Bloomberg cultivated has affected the very candidates vying to succeed him: every candidate for mayor and public advocate has made education one of their top issues. That's both smart policy and smart politics: poll after poll has revealed that for a majority of voters, the only issue that surpasses education is "jobs and the economy". Not surprising given the interconnectedness of education and employment.
By continuing to make schools a citywide priority -- and by tying them to the future of this City -- Bloomberg inspired everyone from private citizens to small business owners to Fortune 500 CEO's to realize that they can and must do something to help.
And it's absolutely critical that New Yorkers continue to have and act upon that realization. Because no one mayor, principal, or teacher can transform our schools alone.