Archives for category: New York City

Mayoral control of the schools was never a good idea. The current race for mayor of New York City demonstrates that it is a horrible idea. The leading candidate at the moment is Eric Adams, who was a police office, a member of the legislature, and borough president of Brooklyn. Certainly he has deep experience in municipal affairs.

But his plans for education are unsound. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

Mercedes Schneider lives in Louisiana but she spotted Adams’ platform on the running the schools and called him out for the worst plan ever proposed.

She writes:

Eric Adams is running for mayor of New York City.

He wants to assign hundreds of students to a single teacher because technology could allow it, and it costs less.

Of course, in Adams’ mind, the ridiculous student-teacher ratio is fine because *great teachers* with technology (aka, kids on laptops) produces “skillful” teaching. Consider Adams’ words in this February 2021 candidate interview with Citizens Budget Commission president, Andrew Rein, when Rein asks Adams about how much a “full year school year” would cost. 

Apparently, Adams’ plan is the well-worn ed-reform idea of cost-cutting excellence:

Think about this for a moment, let’s go with the full year school year because that’s important to me. When you look at the heart of the dysfunctionality of our city, it’s the Department of Education. We keep producing, broken children that turn into broken adults and live in a broken system. 80% of the men and women at Rikers Island don’t have a high school diploma or equivalency diploma. 30% are reported based on one study to be dyslexic because we’re not doing what we should be doing in educating, we find ourselves putting young people in a place of being incarcerated. That must change. And so if you do a full year school year by using the new technology of remote learning, you don’t need children to be in a school building with a number of teachers, it’s just the opposite. You could have one great teacher that’s in one of our specialized high schools to teach 300 to 400 students who are struggling in math with the skillful way that they’re able to teach. 

Let’s look at our best mastered teachers and have them have programs where they’re no longer being just within a school building. We no longer have to live within the boundaries of walls, of locations. We can now have a different method of teaching and I’m going to have the best remote learning that we could possibly have, not just turning on the screen and having children look at someone or really being engaged.

When market-based ed reform hit Louisiana in 2011, one of my concerns as a classroom teacher was that I might be rated “highly effective” and *rewarded* with increased class sizes. That thinking was and still is an idiotic core belief of ed reform: A “great teacher” can continue to be great no matter how thin that teacher is spread in trying to meet the educational needs of any number of individual students.

When Michael Bloomberg was mayor, he once proposed a similar plan: Identify “great teachers” and double the size of their classes. No one thought that was a good idea. Adams wants the neediest children to be online in a class of 300-400 students. They will never get individual attention or help. Dumb idea.

But, wait! There’s more. After Adams got negative feedback for his proposal, he backtracked and said he had been misquoted or misunderstood. Leonie Haimson writes here that if most people learned one thing from the pandemic, it is that remote learning has limited and specific value. If students need extra attention, they will not be likely to get it in remote settings.

I endorse Maya Wiley for the Democratic candidate for Mayor of New York City.

There are many candidates in the Democratic primary for Mayor of New York City. Whoever is chosen will be the next mayor because the city is 3/4 Democrat and the Republican field is weak (Michael Bloomberg spent $100 million of his own money to win the mayoralty as a Republican and one of his top priorities was to persuade the state legislature to give him total control of the public schools).

My first choice initially was Scott Stringer, the City Comptroller, who has deep experience as a citywide official. Stringer was endorsed by the United Federation of Teachers because of his strong support for public schools. But his chances began to fade when a woman stepped forward to accuse him of groping her twenty years earlier.

Then two men emerged at the top of the polls: Andrew Yang and Eric Adams. Both have received large donations from GOP billionaires who support more charter schools.

The next top contender was Kathryn Garcia, a longtime city bureaucrat who has competence and experience. She was endorsed by the New York Times and the Daily News. With all of Garcia’s plans for change, the one area where she is weakest is education. Thanks to Bloomberg, NYC has mayoral control of the schools. Garcia has promised to lift the cap on charter schools (New York City already has nearly 300), to protect the elite public high schools, and to open more of them. she has shown little or no interest in helping the 88% of students who are in the public schools for which she would be responsible. She is a graduate of the city’s public schools, but treats them as an afterthought. For this reason, I cannot support her.

I endorse Maya Wiley. Wiley is a civil rights lawyer whose values and vision align with my own. She is not beholden to billionaires or the powerful real estate industry. In the debates, she shined as a fearless and principled advocate who did not defer to the front runners. She is committed to improving the lives of children, families, and communities. She is opposed to lifting the charter cap. A Mayor with a clear vision can hire outstanding talent to manage the city’s huge bureaucracy. What matters most is that she has a clear vision, grounded in a commitment to the public good.

https://www.mayawileyformayor.com

Salon writes that the two leading candidates in the New York City Democratic mayoral primary—Andrew Yang and Eric Adams—are funded by major supporters of the Republican Party: billionaire Dan Loeb and Chicago-based Ken Griffin. Loeb was chairman of the board of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain.

Readers of this blog know why rightwing billionaires buy politicians. Charters and school privatization. Why do people like Dan Loeb, Ken Griffin, the Walton, and Charles Koch care so much about the issue. They believe that the private sector is always superior to the public sector. They know that 90% of charter schools are non-union and more of them will break the nation’s strongest unions in a shrinking segment of the workforce.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez endorsed civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley. Wiley is the only candidate who has openly opposed charter school expansion.

The New York Times and the Daily News endorsed Kathryn Garcia, who was most recently was Commissioner of the Department of Sanitation and is known for her competence. Although she is a graduate of the NYC public schools, she supports lifting the cap on charter schools. The city currently has nearly 300 charters that enroll 12% of the city’s children.

Big secret: Many public schools have longer wait lists than charters.

Reema Amin, a reporter for Chalkbeat in New York, wrote on Twitter that the Success Academy charter chain will not administer the state tests this year. Do you think that any public school superintendents or principals will make the same decision and get away with it? Nah, we won’t take the state tests this year.

Success Academy charter network was directed by a federal district court judge to pay $2.4 million to families whose children with disabilities were pushed out.

Charter school network Success Academy, which touts its commitment to children “from all backgrounds,” has been ordered to pay over $2.4 million on a Judgment in a case brought by families of five young Black students with learning and other disabilities who sued after the children were pushed out of a Success Academy school in Brooklyn. Success Academy’s efforts to oust the children even included the creation of a “Got to Go” list, as reported by the New York Times in October 2015, which singled out the students they wanted to push out, including the five child plaintiffs.

The lawsuit, brought by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Advocates for Justice, and Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, concluded on March 10, 2021 with Senior United States District Judge Frederic Block’s ruling, which included a precedent-setting determination that federal disability discrimination laws authorize reimbursement of expert fees.

The case charged that Success Academy engaged in practices targeting students with disabilities, in order to force them to withdraw. The practices detailed in the suit included regularly removing the children from the classroom and calling the parents multiple times daily.

“This Judgment provides justice to the children and families who suffered so much,” said Christopher Schuyler, a senior attorney in the Disability Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “It also underscores the need for schools to cease doling out harsh punishments for minor infractions that can interrupt children’s academic progress and divert them into the school-to-prison pipeline.”

“Success Academy’s harsh, inflexible, one-size-fits-all approach to discipline is at odds with its obligation to reasonably accommodate students’ disabilities,” noted Kayley McGrath, an associate in Stroock’s Litigation Group. “These children and their families were forced to withdraw from the Success Academy network not only because their educational needs were not being met, but also because they were explicitly not welcome there. This Judgment recognizes that children with disabilities deserve access to an accommodating learning environment that approaches their needs not with contempt, but with empathy.”

“Success Academy forced these families to withdraw their children by bullying and daily harassment, instead of providing a quality education free from discrimination,” said Laura D. Barbieri, Special Counsel to Advocates for Justice. “New York’s parents and children deserve better, and we are pleased these families achieved justice.”

The litigation centered on five children, then a mere 4 to 5 years old, with diagnosed or perceived disabilities. Success Academy did not provide appropriate accommodations, and frequently dismissed the students prior to the end of the school day – often for behaviors like fidgeting and pouting.  Success Academy also threatened to call child welfare authorities to investigate the children’s families, and even sent one child to a hospital psychiatric unit. Each family eventually removed their child from the Success Academy network.


Politicians in New York City and New York State eagerly seek the endorsement of the ultra-orthodox Hasidic community because it tends to vote as a bloc, favoring whoever supports their interests. One of their highest goals is to make sure that their religious schools are free of any state mandates. Andrew Yang has emerged as the leading defender of the yeshivas and their “right” not to provide a secular education.

An investigation of yeshivas by New York City officials that started in 2015 wasn’t completed until 2019. The investigation was prompted as a result of complaints by a group of yeshiva graduates called YAFFED (Young Advocates for Fair Education), led by Naftuli Moser. YAFFED said that some yeshivas failed to teach basic secular subjects such as English, science, and mathematics, leaving their students unprepared to enter secular society. YAFFED accused Mayor de Blasio of slowing down the investigation to placate his allies in the politically powerful Orthodox Jewish community.

In 2018, the New York Times ran an opinion piece by a graduate of a yeshiva complaining that all of his schooling had been taught in Yiddish or Hebrew, leaving him with no skills for the modern economy.

I was raised in New York’s Hasidic community and educated in its schools. At my yeshiva elementary school, I received robust instruction in Talmudic discourse and Jewish religious law, but not a word about history, geography, science, literature, art or most other subjects required by New York State law. I received rudimentary instruction in English and arithmetic — an afterthought after a long day of religious studies — but by high school, secular studies were dispensed with altogether.

The language of instruction was, for the most part, Yiddish. English, our teachers would remind us, was profane.

During my senior year of high school, a common sight in our study hall was of students learning to sign their names in English, practicing for their marriage license. For many, it was the first time writing their names in anything but Yiddish or Hebrew.

When I was in my 20s, already a father of three, I had no marketable skills, despite 18 years of schooling. I could rely only on an ill-paid position as a teacher of religious studies at the local boys’ yeshiva, which required no special training or certification. As our family grew steadily — birth control, or even basic sexual education, wasn’t part of the curriculum — my then-wife and I struggled, even with food stamps, Medicaid and Section 8 housing vouchers, which are officially factored into the budgets of many of New York’s Hasidic families.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, reported that the yeshivas “receive hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding, through federal programs like Title I and Head Start and state programs like Academic Intervention Services and universal pre-K. For New York City’s yeshivas, $120 million comes from the state-funded, city-run Child Care and Development Block Grant subsidy program: nearly a quarter of the allocation to the entire city.”

When the state or city says that the yeshivas should provide an education for their students that is “substantially equivalent” to secular education, their leaders cry “separation of church and state!” But, inconsistently, their representatives in the legislature actively lobby for tuition tax credits and vouchers. They want the state’s money but not its oversight of the education they provide.

Politico reported in 2019:

Only two out of 28 yeshivas investigated by the city’s Department of Education were deemed to be providing an education “substantially equivalent“ to that given at secular public schools, with another nine on their way to providing it, according to the city’s report on the long-delayed investigation into failing yeshivas.

The group Young Advocates for Fair Education, or YAFFED, lodged complaints against 39 yeshivas it deemed failing in 2015, which is when the city ostensibly began its investigation. After years of delay, the city narrowed its scope to only 28 of the schools. The DOE finished its visits to those schools this year, according to a letter schools Chancellor Richard Carranza sent to Shannon Tahoe, the interim state education commissioner, on

Out of those 28 schools, the DOE said only two were found to be substantially equivalent to legally mandated secular education standards; nine schools were found to be moving toward substantial equivalency; 12 were cited as “developing in their provision of substantially equivalent instruction,” and another five were deemed “underdeveloped in demonstrating or providing evidence of substantially equivalent instruction.

Some yeshivas refused to allow the investigators to enter.

Now comes an election for Mayor in 2021, and Andrew Yang is a prominent candidate.

Yang has made a point of siding with the Orthodox community and defending their “right” to ignore state curriculum standards (e.g., teaching secular subjects like mathematics and science in English, not Hebrew or yiddish). Consequently, he has become a favorite among the leaders of the Ultra-Orthodox community. Yang has made a point of his support for parent’s freedom to choose any kind of education they want.

As other candidates danced around the subject, Yang offered a blunt defense of the embattled Jewish private schools. “I do not think we should be prescribing a curriculum unless that curriculum can be demonstrated to have improved impact on people’s career trajectories and prospects,” Yang said.

He added, pointing to his own month-long Bible course at a Westchester prep school: “I do not see why we somehow are prioritizing secular over faith-based learning.”

The stance rankled some education advocates, who pointed to a 2019 report that found just a fraction of yeshivas were providing students with adequate secular instruction. Other observers described the comments, which echoed a similar answer recently given to The Forward by Yang, as a transparent attempt to curry favor with the Hasidic voting bloc.

This is a transparently disingenuous response, since studying the Bible as literature for a month is very different from religious indoctrination and studying almost all subjects in Hebrew or Yiddish. Certainly this does not prepare young people to enter the modern economy with the skills they need. (Apparently, Yang attended public high school in Somers, New York, in Westchester County, then the private Phillips Exeter in Massachusetts.)

“It’s like a horse race where one horse comes from last to near the top,” one leader in the Orthodox community, who asked for anonymity in order to speak candidly, told Gothamist. While Eric Adams and Scott Stringer were previously seen as the front-runner candidates, “nobody expected we’d even look at this guy,” the source added of Yang. “All of a sudden it’s ‘Whew!’ He’s certainly in that first tier pool of candidates.”

On Twitter, both the Satmar and Bobov, two of Brooklyn’s most influential Hasidic dynasties, have referred to Yang’s comments as “refreshing.” The head of New York government relations for Agudath Israel, an umbrella organization for Haredi Orthodox synagogues, also commended the candidate on Thursday.

The recent comments mark a shift from an answer Yang gave to Politico last month, in which he suggested that schools not meeting baseline standards should be investigated. In the time since, the outlet noted, the campaign has hired the Borough Park District Leader David Schwartz as director of Jewish Community Outreach.

“The things he’s saying echo with great precision what the pro-yeshiva groups are saying,” another source in the Orthodox community told Gothamist. “He’s very carefully putting these talking points out there.”

Yang defended his stance at a forum moderated by Randi Weingarten:

Gracie Mansion hopeful Andrew Yang on Thursday mounted an extraordinary defense of the Big Apple’s embattled yeshiva schools, telling a Jewish mayoral forum that the city has little business “prescribing” secular curriculum to the religious institutions.

Yang made the comments during a virtual New York City mayoral forum hosted by the New York Jewish Agenda after moderator Randi Weingarten asked him: “As mayor, how would you ensure that every child receives what the New York state Constitution calls a sound basic education on secular topics, including not just the public schools, but including the yeshivas and other religious schools.”

“When I looked at the yeshiva question, Randi, the first thing I wanted to see were — what were the outcomes, what is the data,” Yang responded.

The tech entrepreneur and a leading Democratic front-runner in the mayoral race, continued, “I do not think we should be prescribing a curriculum unless that curriculum can be demonstrated to have improved impact on people’s career trajectories and prospects afterwards.”

Yang’s remarks fly in the face of a damning 2019 report by the Department of Educationon yeshiva schools in the city that found that just two of 28 provided adequate secular education to their students.

“If a school is delivering the same outcomes, like, I do not think we should be prescribing rigid curricula,” said Yang who then spoke of his experience in high school.

“I will also say that when I was in public school we studied the Bible for a month. Bible as literature,” he said. “If it was good enough for my public school, I do not see why we somehow are prioritizing secular over faith-based learning.”

Andrew Yang is a cynical opportunist.

New York City has a form of education governance called mayoral control, initiated by billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2002, in which the mayor appoints most of the school board members and selects the chancellor of the system. Bloomberg claimed at the time that he knew how to solve all the problems of education, and he appointed an attorney with no education experience (Joel Klein) as his chancellor. Klein brought in McKinsey and a host of business consultants to reorganize the school system repeatedly. On the one occasion in 2004 when the city’s school board voted to oppose a decision by the mayor (who wanted to end social promotion for third graders, an idea championed by Jeb Bush), he (and the borough president of Staten Island) fired three dissenting members of the panel on the spot.

‘This is what mayoral control is all about,” Mr. Bloomberg said last night. ”In the olden days, we had a board that was answerable to nobody. And the Legislature said it was just not working, and they gave the mayor control. Mayoral control means mayoral control, thank you very much. They are my representatives, and they are going to vote for things that I believe in.”

In light of the mayor’s control of education, it came as a shock when the city’s “Panel on Educational Policy” voted 8-7 to oppose the mayor’s plan to continue testing 4-year-olds for admission to the highly coveted “gifted and talented program.” Both the mayor and the chancellor admitted that the testing program was a terrible idea, but insisted that it should be given just one year more. A majority of the panel thought that it made no sense to do the wrong thing “just one more time.” Children in the gifted program get extra enrichment that should be available to all students.

Chalkbeat reports:

In an extraordinary rebuke to Mayor Bill de Blasio, a New York City education panel early Thursday morning rejected a testing contract — halting, for now, the controversial practice of testing incoming kindergartners for admission to gifted programs.

With testing originally scheduled for this spring, it’s unclear how admissions to the city’s gifted and talented programs will move ahead. 

The rejection was an unusual flex for a panel that has little formal authority, is mostly appointed by the mayor, and has acted largely as a rubber stamp for his education policies. Approval seemed like a forgone conclusion when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this month that the entrance test would continue for one more year. But that required the Panel for Educational Policy to approve an extension of the city’s contract with the company that provides the entrance exams, at a cost of $1.7 million.

Instead, the vote failed 8-7, despite City Hall’s intense lobbying behind the scenes and the appointment of a new panel member just a day earlier. The rejection came even after Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan appeared at the virtual meeting, promising future significant reforms to the gifted program. In the meantime, the city proposed several admissions tweaks aimed at creating more diversity for the incoming kindergarten class. 

New York City is one of the only school districts in the nation that uses a test given to preschoolers to determine admission to elementary school gifted programs. Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza have both criticized the exam, but intended to use it this year while pursuing long-term changes. 

“This is a very challenging topic. As a pedagogue, as a principal, as a parent, I can say with certainty that there is a better way to serve our learners than a test given to 4-year-olds,” Carranza said at Wednesday’s meeting. “That’s why we want this to be the last year this test is administered.”

Parent advocate Leonie Haimson has written an urgent plea to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza. They acknowledge that the test for the “gifted and talented” programs are flawed, they know they need to be replaced, they know that it is wrong to test children as young as 4, but they are giving the test anyway. Haimson says, STOP NOW!

Haimson writes:

Last week, Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carranza announced that they will administer the controversial and problematic test for admissions to “gifted and talented” classes this spring, for perhaps a final year. Then: 

“We will spend the next year engaging communities around what kind of programming they would like to see that is more inclusive, enriching, and truly supports the needs of academically advanced and diversely talented students at a more appropriate age… We will also engage communities around how best to integrate enriched learning opportunities to more students, so that every student – regardless of a label or a class that they are in – can access rigorous learning that is tailored to their needs and fosters their creativity, passion, and strengths.” 

Yet the question arises as to why they will continue to give these exams to children as young as four years old at all. They are exams that few respected researchers believe are either valid or reliable. Why not end the practice now, especially given the risks and considerable cost of administering this test during a pandemic? 

We have posted many critiques of New York City’s gifted program over the years on our NYC Public School Parents blog, including this one by esteemed education leader Debbie Meier in 2007, when Chancellor Joel Klein first instituted a standardized, high-stakes testing process for admissions to these classes in the supposed name of “equity.”

As Meier wrote, “They are using two instruments we know for a fact provide racially biased results–it’s the data that the canards about racial inferiority are based on and comes with a history of bias. Both class and race. Furthermore, we know that psychometricians have unanimously warned us for years about the lack of reliability of standardized tests for children under 7.”

The admissions outcome is clearly racially- and economically-biased, as nearly half of all students who take the test in the wealthiest part of Manhattan, District 2, score as “gifted” (meaning at 90th percentile) while very few score that high in the poorer neighborhoods of Brooklyn or the Bronx. Some parents pay up to $400 an hour for their four-year-old children to take test prep classes. 

About 29,000 children took the gifted test last year, and about 3,600 got offers for seats in gifted classes. Currently, according to the New York Post, Asian students account for 43% of these students, followed by white students at 36%, Hispanic students 8%, and Black students 6%.  

To show how ridiculous this test is, Haimson cites a study showing that most of the children who score at the top on the exam are not at the top a year later.

The only beneficiary of this test is Pearson, which turns a profit.

I posted a delightful article by Jennifer Raab, President of Hunter College, celebrating the importance of public higher education, which has provided opportunity to so many students from low-income and immigrant families.

A faculty member of the City University of New York wrote to say that budget cuts are strangling the promise of public higher education.

He wrote:

Public education requires more than cheerleading: right now, we also need advocates who are willing to fight for it. And while Virginia may have been an impressive alumna of Hunter College, this year Governor Cuomo has held back 20% of CUNY funding based on an expectation of a dramatic state shortfall. While the shortfall has been much less than predicted, the cuts to public education have occurred anyways. 

At Hunter and other CUNY schools, those cuts have meant heavy lay-offs of adjunct faculty. Their courses have been cancelled and, as a result, students are being squeezed into over-crowded classes. A course that, a year ago, might have worked with 30 students in person, this semester will have 40 students in a Zoom room. That’s nowhere near the level of teaching and engagement that Virginia received. And that’s a real tragedy.


In a year in which our public officials have insisted they will fight for greater equity, we need leaders who will fight for the country’s largest public university to be fully funded and its students to be given the quality of education they deserve. We need leaders who don’t only celebrate CUNY’s past, but demand that its traditions of providing a first-rate education for all New Yorkers be maintained in the present and into the future. And if that requires fighting, let’s insist that they take up that battle.

This is a beautiful article by Jennifer Raab, president of Hunter College, which is part of the City University of New York. It appeared in the New York Daily News. When Virginia O’Hanlon attended Hunter College, the City University was tuition-free. In 1976, CUNY began to charge tuition, but it remains far less than private colleges and universities, and many students can piece together aid packages from state and federal funds.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” It may be the most famous sentence in the history of local journalism.

Virginia O’Hanlon of 115 W. 95th St. was just 8 years old when she composed a letter to the editor, writing: “Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in The Sun it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?”

Yes, there is, the paper guaranteed her. “He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”

Those in the know must have been shocked to learn that the words came from the pen of veteran journalist Francis Pharcellus Church, brother of the Sun’s editor. Known to colleagues as a hard-boiled cynic, Church had never written so sentimentally. Now he tenderly assured young Virginia: “Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world.”

Soon enough, thanks to free public higher education, Virginia saw those wonders for herself. Many of today’s newspaper readers know about the editorial. It has been widely reprinted, in the Daily News among many other papers, each year since it first appeared. It has inspired musical pageants.

But few know what happened to Virginia — or that her path in life actually followed Church’s advice to imagine the best.

The daughter of an NYPD coroner, young Virginia soon began harboring dreams that stretched beyond St. Nick’s annual visits. She aspired to teach — and motivate — children herself. So 10 years after writing to the Sun, Virginia O’Hanlon enrolled at Hunter College, which then, as now, educated many of the teachers employed by the New York City school system. Crucially, Hunter offered higher education to women of all races and religions — a rarity at the time of the school’s 1870 founding.

Graduating in 1910, Virginia went on to earn a Master’s and Ph.D., lived through the 1918 influenza pandemic, and taught grade school for decades. Eventually, she became junior principal of PS 401 in Brooklyn, a school renowned for providing an early version of “remote learning” to chronically sick children confined to the borough’s hospitals.

In 1949, Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas returned to Hunter to address students at her alma mater (and of course, retell her Santa Claus story). She retired in 1959, and died nearly 50 years ago, in 1971.

Her life — both the storybook version and the equally uplifting reality — serves as a reminder not only of faith questioned and reignited, but of the opportunities New York public education continues to provide, even now, amid the most stressful and prolonged crisis in city history.

In fact, when CollegeNET recently released its annual Social Mobility Index rankings of America’s colleges, it did not look at all like the usual “Best Colleges” lists topped by Ivy League names. The index, which analyzes colleges’ success at graduating low-income students into well-paying jobs, was front-loaded with public universities. Hunter ranked 9th out of 1,449 schools.

More than a century after Virginia matriculated, Hunter’s student population still offers a springboard to opportunity. Hunter has already served as the launchpad for, among others, Bella Abzug, Martina Arroyo, Ruby Dee, Pauli Murray, Dr. Rosalyn Yalow — and from our high school, such luminaries as Elena Kagan and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Always, we’ve taken particular pride in students, from here and overseas, who are the first in their families to attend college.

Just look what the most recent graduating class is up to. Elliot Natanov, the son of immigrants who fled anti-Semitism in Uzbekistan, is now pursuing a career in sports medicine. Ahmet Doymaz, who immigrated from Turkey as a child, studies cancer and cell regulation. Evelyn Tawil, daughter of Syrian refugees, is pursuing a graduate degree in landscape architecture. Jennifer Dikler, whose parents fled Russia, won a coveted Luce Scholarship to study trade policy in Asia.

Among recent grads, Margarita Labkovich became a Schwartzman Fellow in 2020 and will spend a year at Beijing’s Tsinghua University before returning to medical school and resuming her career as chief operating officer of Retina Technologies (she already holds two patents). And Thamara Jean, daughter of a Haitian-born synagogue superintendent, now attends Oxford University as Hunter’s first-ever Rhodes Scholar. These remarkable young people are soaring above their circumstances, with Hunter’s full support at their backs — and no debt collectors at their front doors.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus: it’s called public education.