The Wall Street Journal responded to Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio’s choice of Carmen Farina as chancellor with bitterness. The editorial calls her “a competent steward of the failing status quo.” How could they overlook the fact that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been the status quo for twelve years? How could they neglect that federal education policy–George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top–is the status quo? They are right that the status quo is failing. But how can they imagine that a man who has not yet taken office, a man who comes to the mayoralty after 20 years of Guiliani and Bloomberg is the status quo? A rational thinker might conclude that de Blasio represents a serious challenge to the status quo, which is very upsetting to the Wall Street Journal, defender of the status quo.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Review & Outlook

The Inequality Contradiction

Mayor de Blasio’s schools chief is a competent steward of the failing status quo.

Dec. 30, 2013 6:59 p.m. ET
The Bill de Blasio era begins in New York City on New Year’s Day, and the new mayor is saying his main preoccupation will be reducing inequality. No doubt he means it, but his appointment Monday of Carmen Fariña as schools chancellor won’t do much for that cause.

Ms. Fariña is by all accounts a competent steward of the education status quo. Known as a fine teacher herself, the 70-year-old served for a time as a deputy chancellor during the Bloomberg era but wasn’t a reform leader. Mr. de Blasio made a point in his Monday remarks announcing her selection that she had retired because she was unhappy with the direction of the Bloomberg reforms.

Those radical reform ideas included more competition (charter schools) and more accountability (measuring school and teacher performance in part by how well students do on tests). Ms. Fariña is said to favor collaboration, rather than competition, among schools. Collaboration is a nice word, but it will achieve nothing if all it means is accommodating the demands of unions for less school choice and less accountability while demanding more money.

The contradiction of the liberal inequality agenda is that it ignores the single biggest obstacle to upward economic mobility—the failure of inner-city public schools. Mr. de Blasio built his “tale of two cities” mayoral campaign, much as President Obama has built his economic agenda, around income redistribution. Raise taxes and spread the wealth.

But no amount of wealth shifting will raise the lifetime prospects of kids who can’t read or can only do 8th-grade math before they drop out of school. The education reform agenda is about reducing income inequality the old-fashioned American way—upward mobility and economic opportunity. By accommodating the education status quo, Mr. de Blasio will make the income gap even larger.