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.

It is the commercialism, expansionism, and self-interest that gets Moskowitz's opponents riled. In 2010, Moskowitz's private not-for-profit took in $12 million in funding, $3 million of it from the state and the rest from private donations. It paid Moskowitz, the CEO, $336,402 in salary that year, according to Success's tax returns. Moskowitz has said that she wants eventually to open 40 schools across New York City; six more Success Academies are already planned for the fall of 2013, three in Manhattan and three in Brooklyn.

"We've had a good relationship with long-established charter schools like Children's Charter 1 and 2," says Wilson. "Our first real fight was with Success." Wilson says the CEC tried for months to get someone from Success to come to one of its meetings; they finally sent a communications director, which "left a bad taste in our mouth." This year, District 14 lost an A-rated high school, so they asked the city to replace it. Instead, "we were told we'd get Citizens of the World. We were like, you've got to be kidding me."

So the neighborhood groups got organized and lawyered up. Advocates for Justice, a local public-interest law firm, filed petitions last year to stop the opening of Success Academies both in Williamsburg and Cobble Hill, but they were dismissed due to statutes of limitations. The parents' groups argue that they didn't hear about the schools in time to register objections, due to the same meager public outreach they were complaining about in the first place.

Abby Johnson, 30, is principal of Success Academy Williamsburg, which focuses relentlessly on college graduation. “What’s wrong with offering more choice to kids?” she asks.
C.S. Muncy
Abby Johnson, 30, is principal of Success Academy Williamsburg, which focuses relentlessly on college graduation. “What’s wrong with offering more choice to kids?” she asks.

"I don't think people are against charter schools in general—our office has actually fought to keep some open," says Advocates for Justice attorney Arthur Schwartz. "It's that they should not be developed by people who don't care about the communities. In Williamsburg in particular, parents have worked really hard to have these integrated, well-balanced schools that a lot of people really want to go to, both yuppie parents and Hispanic parents. And plopped in the middle are these schools that change the balance. The concern is that they start pulling children out of schools that are actually functioning really well."

In January 2013, Advocates for Justice filed a new suit against SUNY's board of trustees, the organization that authorizes new charter schools in New York City, to stop Citizens of the World's entry into District 14. A long list of local officials—including Borough President Marty Markowitz; councilmembers Stephen Levin, Lisa Bloodgood, and Diana Reyna; State Senator Martin Dilan; Assemblyman Joe Lentol; and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez—has spoken out in favor of both suits, each of which argues that the charter organizations failed to comply with state regulations requiring broad community outreach to secure feedback and support for the proposed schools. For example, Citizens of the World claimed in their applications that they held information sessions at mixed- and low-income housing units. As their sign-in sheets showed, however, the sessions were actually held in Schaefer Landing and Northside Piers, high-end glass towers on the waterfront whose city-mandated affordable units are located elsewhere. (Citizens of the World says it also did outreach at six local Head Starts.)

Whatever outreach they did do doesn't seem to be working: At the public hearing for Success Academy Williamsburg on January 17, 2012, there was one couple in favor of Success and approximately 400 parents against. At a second hearing, in February, there were three local parents in favor, plus dozens of Harlem supporters bused in for the occasion.

The irony of all this skirmishing is that both sides claim to have the same goal: a high-quality school with a balance of kids of different colors, incomes, and abilities, something rare in a country where schools are more segregated than they have been since 1968.

"My parents grew up in Jim Crow in the South before the civil rights movement," says Tesa Wilson. "They were sent to a school that was subpar in every way. I have a real problem when children in this day and age don't get equality of treatment."

The fear underlying the hot rhetoric from opponents of chains like Success and Citizens is that for these charter schools, "diversity" really means picking off white and high-income families, the organized and affluent ones with the social capital and the time to agitate to make public schools better—the ones who would otherwise stay in and strengthen local public schools.

Currently, New York City charter school applicants are far more likely to be African-American than the average public school student, a pattern that's true nationwide. According to a study, "Choice Without Equity," by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, 70 percent of black charter school students nationally attend highly racially isolated schools that are 90–100 percent black.

Moskowitz, who attended the prestigious (and public) Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan before moving on to the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins, says she's trying to reverse that trend. Hence Success Academy's expansion into neighborhoods like the Upper West Side and Cobble Hill, where the chances of attracting diversity—i.e., white children—are better than in Harlem or the South Bronx. "It's Martin Luther King–ish and old-fashioned, I know," says Moskowitz, in a rather unlikely comparison. "But people going to school with people that are different than themselves is a very positive, healthy experience."

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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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