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Lhota pledges to “fix our public education system once and for all”

As charter school supporters gathered to march over the Brooklyn Bridge this morning to send a message to Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, Republican Joe Lhota was making his pitch to be the city’s next education mayor.

“Unlike Bill de Blasio —- I will not constrain our children’s education or their future to the zip code in which they live,” Lhota said in a speech to the Association for a Better New York this morning before heading the march himself.

That’s the same group of business and civic leaders to whom Democratic nominee Bill de Blasio announced — and last week, remade, his proposal to raise taxes to pay for expanded pre-kindergarten programs. Lhota said he also supports expanding pre-K but did not say today how he would pay for an expansion.

Lhota’s complete comments on education, as prepared for delivery, is below.

But, what good is creating jobs if they can’t find the skilled workers to fill them, which is why we need to get serious about education reform.

Interestingly enough, the last time I was here, I spoke at length about my vision for education and how to make it even better.

I believed then, as I do now, that education is one of the most important civil rights issues of our generation.

Education is the key to eliminating inequality, lifting people out of poverty, and restoring the great promise this city has offered to people from across the globe.

As I am speaking this morning, thousands of parents and students are marching across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall to demand their voice be heard. They support charter schools. And I stand with them.

My wife, Tamra, is not with us this morning because she is a marching with the charter school parents. After this speech I will be joining that march.

Let’s be clear, the parents and children who march today are not wealthy. Wealthy parents don’t need to march. They can afford to send their children to any school they want. And they do.

The parents and children who are march today are precisely those who want and deserve charter schools —- they are low and moderate-income families.

These parents cannot afford a private school and, more importantly, their children’s future cannot afford their local district school.

Yet, my opponent turns a blind eye to the performance of many charter schools—-

and rather than ask how we can transfer their benefits —- their techniques —- to all of our City schools —-

he stands outside of a charter school and before all of New Yorkers he happily announces policies that will mean the end of charter schools.

The majority of the children in charter schools are from that other City Bill de Blasio likes tell tales of, yet their voices today fall on his deaf ears.

If you oppose charter schools and other choice for minorities, inner city kids, and children of immigrants, you cannot call yourself progressive.

—-

Now, here’s an area where Bill and I agree.

We both understand the tremendous value of universal pre-K. They happen to be the very same values upon which the charter school movement was built.

If you ask him what his plans are for public education beyond pre-k, you will find that is where the similarities end.

My opponent is for the same, status quo system that is failing our children.

His solution is to put a moratorium on the closing and reconstituting of failing public schools.

I believe it is immoral to keep failing schools open.

How do his extreme positions on education and charter schools improve the lives of children in need? How is that progress?

Unlike Bill de Blasio —- I will not constrain our children’s education or their future to the zip code in which they live.

As mayor I will make sure we fix our public education system once and for all.

ALL of our schools must be excellent schools.

I will appoint a chancellor who understands how children learn, and who has the management skills to implement needed reforms.

I will create new schools–both traditional schools and charter public schools–to give parents more options for their children.

And I will give our teachers the support and respect they deserve by providing more professional development opportunities and incentives so that good teachers can become great teachers and great teachers can become excellent teachers.

I also want to address something that seems to have been lost in the conversation about education.

We must do something about those New Yorkers who have already gone through a failed education system and do not have the skills to move beyond a low-wage job.

We must right this wrong.

That is why, as mayor, I will provide them with access to free, quality online college and remedial education.

Across the country, nearly every university has online courses.

No one could have dreamed—well except Steve Jobs—how connected we are by tablets and other mobile devices.

There is no reason why we cannot offer free online college programs to help retrain and educate those that the system has failed.

I will work with companies and non-profits to secure these mobile devices and for those individuals on public assistance—the hours spent learning will count as part of any workfare requirement.

We must not allow this new economy to pass by any New Yorker.

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