Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Speaking of smackdowns, here’s hoping Bill Perkins gets one!

Harlem gets 'choice'

Last Updated: 4:16 AM, May 7, 2010


As ye sow, Bill Perkins, so shall ye reap.

That is to say, state Sen. Bill Perkins is trying his damnedest to make sure his Harlem constituents have no choice in their kids' education -- but now they'll get to choose where to put him.

Plugged-in political consultant Basil Smikle, 38, announced Wednesday that he'll be challenging Perkins in the Democratic primary this September.

Issue No. 1: charter schools.

Perkins has repeatedly betrayed the overwhelming best interests of his district by trying to kill the schools, which he bizarrely labels "segregationist."

He's pushed a bill that would force charters to unionize -- stripping their ability to get rid of bad teachers -- and opposed all attempts to increase the number of charters allowed to operate.

Problem is, the people who put him in office can't seem to get enough charters.

Drawn by the schools' rigor -- charter students in Harlem passed state tests last year at a rate 20 points higher than those in surrounding district schools -- and safe learning environments, 14,000 students this year applied for just 2,700 Harlem charter seats.

Enter Smikle, a charter champion. "Education reform has galvanized the community," he says; Perkins is "pit[ting] residents of upper Manhattan against one another" by opposing charters.

Smikle just might have the muscle to pull off a victory. He's well known in the neighborhood, having worked for Hillary Clinton and Fernando Ferrer, among others.

And he can surely count on enthusiastic support from thousands of Harlem charter-school parents -- plus thousands more who desperately want more choice for their kids.

Let the race begin.

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