Invasion Of The Charter Schools

Former City Councilmember Eva Moskowitz, with Bloomberg's union-busting blessing, is pushing her Success Academy edu-franchise into Brooklyn. The natives aren't buying.

What about "innovation and excellence"? Well, your mileage may vary. According to a 2009 study published by Stanford, only 17 percent of charter schools nationally outperformed nearby public schools, and 46 percent did about the same. In New York State, charters tend to do much better, with more than half beating their district equivalents in math.

But the issue at stake in Williamsburg is not the virtues or the evils of charter schools. This is about the basic American democratic principle of local control, the notion that families should have meaningful input in determining their own educational needs and that a few entrepreneurial carpetbaggers pulling down six-figure salaries—with the backing of an unabashedly free-marketeering, union-hating mayor—shouldn't be allowed to trample parents' rights in order to advance their own philosophies and agendas.

Whether they are not-for-profit or for-profit, and they can be either, charter chains are businesslike—and they compete aggressively for students. Success Academy spent a reported $900,000 on marketing last year, including $250,000 to the lobbying, PR, and crisis-management firm SKD Knickerbocker. The chain also bought space for a set of large ads in the Bedford Avenue L subway stop.

Eva Moskowitz's husband, Eric Grannis, also pushes the charter school concept.
grannislaw.com
Eva Moskowitz's husband, Eric Grannis, also pushes the charter school concept.
Stephanie Anderson, whose daughter attends P.S. 84, says the influx of charters “defies logic.”
C.S. Muncy
Stephanie Anderson, whose daughter attends P.S. 84, says the influx of charters “defies logic.”

Both Success and Citizens of the World are zeroing in on Baby Hui habitués like Miwako Dai, a lawyer who has lived in Williamsburg since 2006. "After our first child was born, I started worrying that there were no good public school options in this neighborhood," she says. "We looked at schools and properties in Williamsburg and other parts of Brooklyn with the hope of relocating to a good public school zone but didn't find anything that was convincing enough to make us move." She says she was "skeptical" of Success at first, but "my son is challenged at Success and comes home with a curious mind every day."

According to Parker, the charters are picking off newer residents in the neighborhood who also happen to be new parents. "This all started on the Brooklyn Baby Hui, which, as my stepdaughter calls it, is 'white people's problems,'" says Parker. "What stroller [to buy], blah, blah, blah. Very few people on the hui have kids who are already in school. And that's how the charter schools do their marketing. They go right to people who don't have kids in schools, and they feed directly into any fears you may have about urban education, and then say they have the solution for them."

Many parents have the same shimmering vision of the perfect public school: one that's progressive, with art and gardens and recess, but also with strong academics and good test scores without getting too obsessive over test prep. It's cozy and friendly with a strong community but not too many fundraisers or committee meetings. It's not crazy competitive to get into; it's integrated and diverse, but not depressing or scary or over-strict.

In short, it sounds a lot like P.S. 84 Jose de Diego, on Grand Street and Berry.

P.S. 84's success is the product of years of hard work. In the mid 2000s, police officers were regularly attending PTA meetings there to try to keep peace between the Hispanic parents in the upper grades and white parents putting their kids into the kindergarten. The school went through several principals before finding peace in 2009 with the hiring of Sereida Rodriguez-Guerra, who grew up in the neighborhood and has two children at the school. P.S. 84 hosts fundraisers by the likes of TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe and bake sales to benefit Occupy Sandy. In the past two years, a giant, colorful mural has appeared on the building with the help of local community organization El Puente.

"P.S. 84 is a progressive, balanced-literacy, project-based school," says Stephanie Anderson, whose daughter is in the dual-language second grade. "We're building a 1,500-square-foot rooftop greenhouse; we've got a working hydroponic classroom, relationships with local community organizations, performance arts, dance, music." Anderson got involved in WAGPOPS, she says, because she loves her school so much. Parker and Anderson and their fellow parents argue that P.S. 84 and similar neighborhood public schools are achieving a delicate balance on the knife's edge of gentrification—a balance that is threatened by the entry of outside charters.

"Nothing that they offer is unique or needed," says Anderson. "Our neighborhood schools are being overrun in a way that defies any logic."

For Mayor Bloomberg, as well as his former schools chancellor, Joel Klein (now an executive at Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., where he oversees Amplify, the company's "education unit"), and his current one, Dennis Walcott, the logic is business logic. The three men are some of the most prominent boosters of charter schools nationwide, and when they talk about education, they speak the language of choice, investment, and free markets. "We're committed to developing a portfolio of schools for families to choose from," says Puglia, the Department of Education spokesperson. "While there are excess seats available [in District 14], communities have asked for more parent choice and additional high-quality options."

Who exactly the "community" is and what they've asked for is just the question at stake in District 14. "There are schools in the area with real needs," says Tesa Wilson, a mother and longtime neighborhood resident who has served eight years on the local parents' school advisory board, known as the Community Education Council, or CEC. When charter schools co-locate, they compete with the "host" school, which may well have lost resources as it lost head count. The CEC in District 14, for example, has asked for the past seven years to have enrichment programs reinstated, libraries reopened, and new high-quality middle and high schools established to relieve the pressure on the district magnet schools, says Wilson. Instead, they got new kindergarten classes run, outfitted, and freshly equipped by Success Academy.

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95 comments
chinesepigs
chinesepigs

i happen to know for a fact that "publicschooler", the most irate anti-charter participant in this debate, sends her own child to a private school several neighborhoods away from where she resides. The hypocrisy is more than staggering. It's like a joke.

melendezjenna
melendezjenna

Why is this even a "debate"??? If you don't like the idea of YOUR child going to a charter school then don't apply! How dare you think it okay to attempt limit the options of any other parent or child because of your views! How hypocritical can one be? You say how dare a SA try to tell you what "your community needs or wants" but you do the same?!?! The applications will tell the truth about what "your" community wants. This is America choice/diversity should be respected not prevented.

lifeisrosey
lifeisrosey

I am a passionate public school supporter.  We live in Los Angeles and tried to stick it out, but I really feel like the APPROACH that is used in public schools is not the best option for children's varied learning styles. My daughter was dreading school and it became apparent that her love of learning was dwindling. One day we got a call from Citizens of the World Charter School in Hollywood that her name had been selected off the waiting list. We figured we'd give it a try and have been AMAZED at the difference. The approach to teaching math, reading, critical thinking, conflict resolution is so different. She is enthusiastic to go to school each day and energetic when she describes the projects she's doing. I also like the diversity and socio-economic mix they make a great effort to achieve. I'm not saying all public schools are horrible. I just think that the teachers in public schools don't have as much freedom to implement a curriculum that best serves their students, the way a Charter school can. I hope that public schooling will get better, but I've jumped ship as far as my child is concerned. I think the students of the Brooklyn CWC will be very lucky to be a part of that school and I believe that it will strengthen the community as a whole. (btw: I still donate and support the local public school because I genuinely care about the greater good that it serves)

dsar9012
dsar9012

What do you gays care abut schools anyway.you can't have children

G1911
G1911

America better wake up to the likes of Gates (who wants charter schools) and the surrogate of the Koch Brothers, Scott Walker (a college failure, like Gates) who rose through guile rather than academic integrity and greatness.  These people have one-track minds: Power and profit at any cost.  

It didn't matter to Gates to steal, err... borrow heavily from...  the Quick and Dirty Operating System (QDOS).  Even Steve Jobs who loved to attack public education failed to see the fact that the public schools educate EVERYONE, there is no throwing out of underperforming students or substandard test-takers; The public schools do not fire children like these heads of industry do or, for that matter, the Charter Schools who can and do remove undesirables.

In Newsday recently someone was attacking a local superintendent claiming she made a half-million a year.  A simple google search revealed the supe was making $200K even, and this at one of the highest performing (top 75 ranked by Newsweek) districts in the country.  Yet Eva pulls in $336K or more.  That's not bad for a "not-for-profit" institution.  Still, keep in mind, the name of the game, like Gates or Jobs or Eva is total domination of the chess board.... for profit.  I can at least applaud Eva for sticking her children in these schools but that sort of discipline sounds sadistic.  Discipline, good, but demeaning approach is bad.

What makes a school great is the parents getting involved and setting high goals for their children.  

Schools are one of the last great untapped resources of wealth in the eyes of rich folks like the Kochs, Robert Murray, George Soros, the Rockefellers.  New York Schools are the crown jewel.  Gotta keep busting the unions and steal the nest egg since all the low-hanging fruit (pensions invested in Wall Street, the third world., housing) has already been picked.

Disarm the public a step at a time with FF Manchurian Candidate events from SSRI-laden youths with subsequent attacks on the 2nd amendment, the 1st (OWS), the 4th and 5th (NDAA, Gitmo) and now the 10th (State rights trampled from M-Jane to Education [RTTT and NCLB]) and you can have a compliant nation of sheep.

Kudos to the folks of this community for standing up for their children in the face of shameless economic imperialism.  BRAVO!

WAGPOPS
WAGPOPS

Some facts:

- On top of the public money (about 2/3 of public school funds) that charter schools receive per student, charter schools receive $2700 EXTRA from NYC DOE for use of public space (info from the Independent Budget Office). This means that charter schools generally receive $700 more per student than public schools. This, of course, does not even include the substantial money they receive from investors.  

- Success Academy had a $23 million dollar surplus before Eva Moskowitz even asked to receive her %50 increase in management fees.

- Success Academy pays $1300 in marketing for each seat in her school.

- Citizens of the World Charter School has set their financing their schools with a Ponzi scheme. They are opening up a school in New York to get start up funds to pay back the $250,000 loan that they took out in California. Citizens of the World Charter School also asks each parent to give $1800 to their school. 

There's a lot more facts that back up the reasons why parents and community members across the city, state, and nation are fighting privatization.

TonyViet
TonyViet

Now colocation has become the preferred battlefield for opponents. NYC has been colocating schools for more than 100-years, and charter schools are only a small part of this practice. Perhaps the process of assessing space usage by schools is flawed, but I doubt it is on the scale implied by opponents. It strikes me as very analytical, and prone to not factoring in some of the dynamics mentioned in this article. It makes sense for the city to try to make the most of their space...it keeps costs down for all of us. If Success Academy needs to supplement the money from the state (which it gets a fraction of compared to other schools), how is the way it makes up the difference worse than the rampant fundraising other schools depend on? (There's a story I'd like to see). So a large organization spends money on marketing and PR as it goes through a growth stage, but how much money has been spent litigating and defending itself from all the suits opponents file?

http://theglobaltransition.com/

WAGPOPS
WAGPOPS

BREAKING UPDATE for parents who were told that Citizens of the World Charter Schools would be a progressive choice for D14 families who don't think that their neighborhood public schools are progressive enough.  The new Chief of Schools, Jana Reed, is the co-founder of Ascend Learning, a chain of charters in Brooklyn (with a new one opening in D14 for 2013-14). Jana is credited with "launching the organization and guiding its growth to its current revenue of $23.6 million." We strongly encourage you to read up on the "progressive" practices of Ascend:   www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=2387

nycparent
nycparent

There is so much noise in the charter school debate. While not perfect, this article and some of the comments, surfaces some of the issues well. It also gives a glimpse into the messy way we approach complex issues. Each side trots out emotional points attempting to win their argument while substantive points slip by. Along the way, like this article, they veer into personal attacks and less substantive arguments. 

Now colocation has become the preferred battlefield for opponents. NYC has been colocating schools for more than 100-years, and charter schools are only a small part of this practice. Perhaps the process of assessing space usage by schools is flawed, but I doubt it is on the scale implied by opponents. It strikes me as very analytical, and prone to not factoring in some of the dynamics mentioned in this article. It makes sense for the city to try to make the most of their space...it keeps costs down for all of us. If Success Academy needs to supplement the money from the state (which it gets a fraction of compared to other schools), how is the way it makes up the difference worse than the rampant fundraising other schools depend on? (There's a story I'd like to see). So a large organization spends money on marketing and PR as it goes through a growth stage, but how much money has been spent litigating and defending itself from all the suits opponents file? 

With so much focus on adding more seats for elementary schools I hope the DOE is keeping an eye on the need for middle school seats in the future. Anticipating the future isn't perfect, but if they aren't trying then bigger problems than charter schools are coming in a few years. 

Attending hearings this year about the allocation of space in school buildings has been an adventure. Opponents of charter schools gin up opposition to protect the status quo, telling students and staff that this is an indictment of their hard work, that money will be kept from them, and that charters are evil organizations attended by misguided elitist families. There are many ways conventional schools and the variety of expensive private options are off-putting to families entering this process for the first time. Perhaps this relates to how long a family has been here, but it is a big reason charters are appealing. The lottery to get into public Pre-K is not successful for lots of families either which sets the stage for parents to want choices. Paying tuition for another year isn't much fun either. Established schools would do well to present themselves better and not just as the default choice for families. The vitriol at meetings around the school our son attends makes you wonder if you want to go to school with the families in opposition. 

We elected to have our son attend a charter school even though our zoned school is well regarded. It wasn't a simple choice. So far it has been a good choice. We passed on joining an established community with limited opportunity for input and a high cost to play the fundraising game played by the PTA machine. We opted for a school with an appealingly coordinated approach to education and the opportunity to contribute to growing something new and valuable for the community. Effectively we are attending a magnet school, with families from a wider area than a zoned school. It is a diverse population navigating the bewildering process of raising kids in the city.  

This article is one small installment in a much bigger tale. Ideally the Voice will be writing more and finding a way to tell this very complex story from multiple points of view. 


1sensei
1sensei

ANYA KAMENETZ  statement that Italians are not White is interesting. At the turn of the last century people with her last name and Italians were considered unworthy of being Americans by people with her bourgeois attitude. I take offense and I'm not even Italian.

sachparent
sachparent

this article is outrageous in it's vacuous claims about how great the local schools are.  Note the main activist has her child in a dual enrollment program - which are ALWAYS populated by a self-selected group of more educated and motivated parents.  What about the parents who don't get into that program!?  I too have a child in a zoned and a success school and am thrilled I have that choice.  I don't understand who these people are fighting for?  Many underserved families are dying to send their child to a charter school - more well-to-do parents can figure it out and if the local schools are so great (which I very very highly doubt as very few DoE schools are) then these charter schools will be a non issue. 

ConcernedFather
ConcernedFather

The author doesn't understand that parents making choices for themselves is the ultimate form of local control.  It is Parker and Wilson who are trying to control where kids go to school.  

I guess for them local control is below the federal level, below the state level, below the city level, and stops and is perfectly applied at the CEC level, but doesn't go one level down to the parent level. Why should Parker and Wilson be able to stop parents who want to send their kids to a Success Academy from doing so?  

You would have to believe that this supposedly "creamed" population of anxious young educated parents with kids not yet in school are duped by Success Academy's marketing program that was on the one hand incredibly extensive, and on the other hand didn't reach the most activist, informed, engaged local parents who read every blog posting on schools in the tri-state area.

gunlockeb
gunlockeb

Those parents they talked to are college grads. Their kids are going to grow up around books and NPR and all that. It doesn't matter much whether their kids' school is a good one. So they can wax glowingly about the diversity at the Diego Rivera school. It's a little bit phony.

SAUWmom
SAUWmom

I have a child in a zoned school and a child in a Success Academy.  I think that the Success Academy is the right fit for my older child and I am absolutely certain that I, rather than Brooke Parker, know what is best for my child. 

When charter opponents whine about charters taking away tax dollars and space from DOE schools,  remember that CHARTER PARENTS PAY TAXES TOO!  The district schools and UFT should not have a monopoly on tax payer dollars. 

womanphoenix
womanphoenix

The "choice" here is to allow these profit-driven outfits to leach tax money and resources -- and the least troublesome kids -- from the non-mercenary schools.  Charters, just like any other private school, get to avoid educating special-needs kids or undocumented kids or anyone else they don't want.  And most don't do any better of a job teaching, even with their cherry-picked student bodies.

localparent
localparent

The sad thing is, many charter supporters in Williamsburg stopped speaking up because Brooke Parker and her friends at PS84 relentlessly bullied them. One supporter said that she thought Parker was going to actually hit her at a hearing. That's why when you read these articles and comments, you only hear the loud mouthed protesters. But there are currently 150 children at Success Academy Williamsburg that are thriving, and their families - many of them of minority background that are not interviewed - appreciate that this school came to exist. We won, and are so done with this debate.

BKbornANDazed
BKbornANDazed

I'm a PS 84 parent and I think this article is right on the money but unfortunately has a major blind spot.  Namely the lack of Latino parent voices from the south side who have been upfront in opposing charter schools and have been fighting for better public schools in north Brooklyn for a very long time.  This area has a multi-generational history of community organizing and that political capital and savvy from long-timers is a big part of why you see 400 parents coming out to oppose Success Academy, not just because somebody posts an e-mail to the Baby Hui list-serve. Institutions like El Puente have helped to mobilize both long-time and newer parents and anyone who says this is just about "hipster parents with too much free time on their hands" has no idea what they are talking about.   The public school parents interviewed spoke eloquently but the parent body working on this issue is broad, deep, diverse and has a local history -- it's a shame the article didn't speak to that. 

Also the word "choice" is being stretched greatly in this debate.  The existing public school population constitutes the vast majority in this district. How are you going to tell me or any other public school parent that this is just a matter of "choice" when a private company comes to our area with no parent input or solicitation and poaches resources meant for all of our kids?  Where's our "choice" in the DOE's decision to starve local public schools of resources, classify them as failing or under-enrolled and then give the spoils to the charters?  PLEASE!!!

BKBabyMama
BKBabyMama

CHOICE!?!?  Let's talk about choice.  A choice is when someone gives you several options and you select the one you want.  At Success Academy's co-location hearing in Williamsburg 400 people came out and said WE DON'T WANT THAT!  2 (rich, white, connected people) said WE DO (but not for our children because they're in private school).  Now who's getting the choice here, and why?  Same thing at the co-location hearing for Citizens of [what] World.  Hundreds opposed, 2 (non-employes) for.  The parents in Williamsburg have not been given any choice here.  Let's make that very clear.  We have had this crap shoved down our throats, we're tired of it, and finally someone (thank you Anya Kamenetz) has the balls (or is not on the Moskowitz payroll) enough to speak the truth about it.  Let me say something else about choice.  When you bring in Walmart (funded) McCharter schools (yes, check Success' website, sad but true) into a neighborhood with A rated (5 star) public schools, where is the choice, really?  Do you want to get your child's education from Walmart or from locally grown Williamsburg, Brooklyn?  This "choice" rhetoric is old, nauseating, and not working anymore.  WE CHOOSE NO!!!!!!!  We DON'T WANT IT!!!!!!  So STOP SAYING IT........OOOOKKKKKK?!?!

Lorna_Feeney
Lorna_Feeney

I’m so happy to finally see comprehensive coverage of this issue. I got involved in this cause over a year ago because the more research I did about Success and Citizens charters, the more I was able to see the truth. (And it’s obvious Anya Kamenetz did, too—her research shows it.) I was also offended by some of the (mis)statements on Babyhui, and later at school hearings, by a few pro-charter people claiming that our local schools are “not good enough” for them, that they were “failing” and “in a state of emergency.” (My favorite, from a white woman with a baby: “How close is PS 84 to the projects?”) But once we came out with real data to show that in fact we have some of the best elementary schools in the city, that are excellent academically and a model of integration, their narrative changed. Where Success Academy used to assert that they were coming to Williamsburg because “there is a need for better elementary schools” here (an imperialist, non-MLK statement if I’ve ever heard one: http://goo.gl/z41Go), and Citizens badly skewed district data so they could use the same argument in their proposal to SUNY, now they say it is about “parent choice.”

Public goods that use taxpayer money--like fire stations, transportation, and schools—are not and never should be about the individual choice of a few people with no accountability. Public goods are a shared resource, and should only be implemented with rational, strategic planning and the intent to serve the public at large. If I decide that the nearest L train entrance is not close enough to my home, do I grab a few neighbors, millions in taxpayer money, and then start digging a hole in the street? No. It should be a democratic process.

All of which is to say that as a founding member of WAGPOPS, I would not be involved in this fight if I didn’t believe we were going into it side-by-side with the Latino and African American communities. We have joined forces with Southside Community Schools Coalition, El Puente, St. Nick’s Alliance, and a host of other CBOs involved in the battle for our local public schools (http://scscbrooklyn.wordpress.com/scsc-members/). We have marched behind honored leaders and elected officials in our district, including Diana Reyna, Nydia M. Velasquez, and Luis Garden Acosta. The constant refrain of the few pro-Succes and pro-Citizens parents in our neighborhood is, “I have to do what’s best for ME and MY child.” To that I say, you have to consider what’s best for ALL children in our district, and it's something the community, elected officials, the CEC, city planners and our local parents should agree upon via a democratic process. 

mremail
mremail

So this chain smoking tattooed hipster knows what the entire neighborhood wants in schools? What about the Hispanics? What about the blacks? What about the polish? Why is it okay that Arbor school has more than half white kids but it won't be okay for citizens world? Let each and every parent decide. If a school is under enrolled, there are reasons. It's likely that its not so fabulous.

MrHarris2001
MrHarris2001

It's pretty obvious that some of these pro charter comments contain talking points lifted from the playbooks of operators like Success. We know, for instance, that parents are encouraged to canvass comment sections when articles like this are published in an attempt tomorrow get the "message" out. But as the artixle makes

localparent
localparent

The media loves to feature crazy people with lots of free time because it's amusing. This is a typical example. We wasted one year trying a mediocre district school. We send our child to Success Academy Williamsburg now and are amazed how sophisticated, effective, nuturing and fun this school is. It will grow into a great middle school, too. If you like your school, I am happy for you, but you don't have the right to criticize the school that your child doesn't attend or to compromise our quest for high quality education.

Sand2013
Sand2013

I am a local Williamsburg parent at an amazing local public school- full of choice and space!  SO many of us are so upset about the invasion of Charter chains...  We need more middle schools.  Not elementary schools.  We have sent the message over and over again but are not being heard.  We have all the local politicians on our side.  We have CHOICE here- we don't need more.  This article speaks the truth.   

WAGPOPS
WAGPOPS

The argument for opening up any charter school just because some parents want it, ignores that communities have a right to decide their use of public space. Let's be clear here, Success Academy and Citizens of the World aren't JUST using tax dollars for their privatized businesses, they are taking public school space away from the neighborhoods against the neighborhood's democratically expressed wishes.

Unless the public has voted for vouchers, (did we miss that?) opening up new schools should be considered city planning to address enrollment trends and the educational landscape of each district.

The list of names for parents waiting for charter schools is highly suspect. First of all, when you apply to 1 success academy, you apply to 14.  Same with the online common charter school application.  Waiting lists for charter schools are far from an accurate gauge for demand.

http://www.facebook.com/WilliamsburgGreenpointParents


2006forlife
2006forlife

This article is exactly what it claims to not be about: #firstworldproblems. God forbid a community has multiple high-performing schools! Woe is Brooklyn! 

First of all, charter schools do not take away funding from public schools; if a parent CHOOSES to send their child to a charter school, then the public school loses the funding that goes with it but they also lose the burden of the cost for providing education for that child. Also, charter schools get significantly less money per pupil than public schools do, which is why they survive on private donations. 

Parents are CHOOSING to send their kids to charter schools; in NYC you don't have to live in an up-scale neighborhood to send your kid to an up-scale school. The DOE provides metrocards and kids can take the subway or the bus out of their not-so-privileged neighborhood to an up-scale charter school just a short ride away. Every morning half of the packed subway car I'm on is also carrying kids going off to school. 

If you don't want to send your child to charter school, then you shouldn't choose to do that. You whine-bags in Williamsburg seem to be really happy with your public schools, so don't send your kids to the charter schools that are opening in your neighborhood. However, it would be really nice if you didn't take away other parents' choice just because you think you know what is best. Get over yourself. Just because something is a great choice for your child doesn't mean it's a great choice for someone else's child. 

ParentChoice
ParentChoice

My wife and I are proud employees of Success Academy Charter Schools.  As someone who works closely with prospective parents, it hurts my heart and weighs significantly on me when I read such irresponsible words as the ones printed in The Village Voice today.  It especially hits home when I watch how deeply my wife cares about providing a safe, nurturing school for the families of New York City, and when I go into all the boroughs of this city and people desperately ask me, "How can I get my child into your school?"  I admire our schools for adhering to an educational model that leaves even our opponents without much to argue against.

Shango67
Shango67

Is the charter school movement serving kool-aid laced with mind altering drugs? The number of charter school applicants clearly demonstrate the community's preference. Parents need choices, even if the neighborhood schools are not broken.

 
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