City Hall tries to make peace with charters, with mixed results

The de Blasio administration’s stance on charter schools has gone from aggressive to defensive to nonexistent over the last two years, with the mayor's public defiance changing to an unofficial policy of avoiding the sector altogether after he suffered a decisive political loss last year.

Now, as Mayor Bill de Blasio's camp begins to look ahead to his 2017 re-election bid, officials say they’re trying to make peace with the sector that has inflicted so much political pain on City Hall.

De Blasio officials have made modest overtures to the charter movement in the last several months, even as the well-funded charter groups Families for Excellent Schools and Success Academy have continued to hold large anti-de Blasio rallies.

City schools chancellor Carmen Fariña visited two charter schools on their first day of classes and recently invited James Merriman, the CEO of the New York City Charter School Center, to address employees at Department of Education headquarters. De Blasio announced a $5 million commitment to boosting collaboration between charter and district schools in September, and offered some extremely rare praise for the charter sector along the way.

It is suddenly normal to hear a City Hall or education official casually praise charter schools, as deputy chancellor Dorita Gibson did earlier this week when she highlighted the work charters have done on diversity at a panel discussion. And de Blasio has promised to make his first visit to a non-unionized charter school, the recently-opened DREAM Charter in East Harlem.

At the center of those efforts is Richard Buery, de Blasio’s deputy mayor for special projects.Buery, considered by City Hall officials to be a much-needed bridge to the charter world, has real charter credentials: He created the Children’s Aid College Prep Charter and served on the boards of two charters, including an Achievement First school in East New York, where he grew up.

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