Bill de Blasio pivots on school issues, and has work to do

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reads

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reads to kindergartners at P.S. 130 in Chinatown on Feb. 25, 2014. Photo Credit: Getty Images

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When it comes to words, Mayor Bill de Blasio can turn on a dime -- which doesn't bother us at all. Today he's talking up charter schools like a TV infomercial pitchman -- citing their crucial value as idea incubators. That's a stark change from a few days ago, when he was making them sound like elitist enclaves.

And now -- on Albany's tab -- he's proudly preparing to lead 1,000 new teachers into the school system in the fall on the first wave of his prekindergarten expansion for 4-year-olds. And he'll usher in a second 1,000-teacher wave in 2015 -- for a program with 73,000 student seats.

You'd never know he just suffered a humiliating defeat over his plan to pay for pre-K with a tax hike on the city's wealthiest citizens. And you'd never know Gov. Andrew Cuomo sharply outmaneuvered him on charter schools.

De Blasio is acting like a political pro in the best sense of the term -- accepting his losses tacitly and making the most of whatever political consensus still works for him. For New Yorkers, this means our schools should be much better off -- with charters leading an innovative vanguard, and with pre-K classes giving every child a stronger shot at educational success.

But trouble still lurks. Can de Blasio really mobilize overnight a massive system that's justly famous for resistance to change? An organization that once had so many workers it couldn't count them all? A bureaucracy that seemed to botch even regular seasonal rituals like summer school?

It's possible. Times have changed.

But the mayor plans to boost enrollment of 4-year-olds by 170 percent between now and September. He wants to recruit a total of 2,000 new teachers by the fall of 2015. He must find classroom space for the influx of prekindergartners and figure out a thousand other details.

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And what about the money?

At the moment, the budget bazaar is still open in Albany. Will the city really get $300 million annually as expected? Can we be sure the full sum will be used for kids and not for the back pay the teachers union is demanding?

De Blasio's high-stakes test isn't over yet.

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