For starters, Hidary does not have a college degree. A self-made entrepreneur, Hidary attended Columbia University and studied philosophy and neuroscience but left school to complete a fellowship in clinical neuroscience at the National Institutes of Health. He never graduated from Columbia or anywhere else, according to a spokesman for his campaign.
The businessman also told GothamSchools that he would charge charter schools fees to use space in district school buildings, a move that would reverse Bloomberg’s policy of letting the schools operate rent-free in public space.
Charter advocates say that to charge rent would cripple charter schools’ ability to serve students, but critics say space-sharing causes overcrowding and tension inside school buildings.
“Charter co-location should continue as long as a reasonable cost is charged to such charters for co-location fees,” Hidary said. “These fees can be phased in over the next few years to address any budget issues between public schools and charter schools.”
Hidary, who has raised more than $430,000 since entering the mayoral race in June, recently completed a GothamSchools questionnaire about how he would run the city’s schools with answers that ranged from vague to decisive.
When asked whether the city’s charter sector should continue to grow, he said data on charters “are mixed,” and some aren’t “tracking significantly above their public school counterparts.” Like other candidates, Hidary said his focus would be on all students across all schools and not just charters.
He also said he would “first make all attempts to fix a school” before closing it. One of the ways he thinks schools can be saved from closure is with blended learning, a model in which students do some of their work online.
“By focusing on our transformation from an 18th-century model of textbooks, testing, and memorization to a blended learning model, we will save many schools that would otherwise be closed,” Hidary said.
Bloomberg’s former schools chancellor Joel Klein spurred blended learning in the city’s schools when he started the Innovation Zone initiative, a network of schools that use technology to personalize learning. But Klein also vehemently argued that schools that were not up to par should be closed.
Like other candidates, Hidary said he would want to see mayoral control continue, saying that the governance structure “has led to quicker decision-making and … allows us to fix issues at a system-wide level.”
He also joined most of the Democratic candidates for mayor in saying that he would require principals to spend a certain portion of their budgets on arts instruction, something that the Bloomberg administration has not done.
Hidary stayed neutral on a few topics that have been hot-button issues in the election.
He doesn’t say whether the next chancellor should be an educator — just that the person chosen “must have a combination of leadership skills and an vision focused on the needs of our children.” He also did not give clear answers on whether he would raise taxes to finance new investments in education or whether lowering class size should be a priority.
In his answers, Hidary uses his background as a tech entrepreneur to present a few markedly new ideas: integrating entrepreneurial programs into every middle school and wiring all the schools for broadband Internet, which he said would allow students to collaborate with other students across the United States and world. He also would create a “system-wide parents’ association,” which would include an online parent-teacher communication system.
“This gives our children direct access to the trends that are shaping their world and their future,” he said.
Compare Hidary’s stances on education policies to other candidates’ by checking out our Next Education Mayor feature.