The NYTimes reported on two rallies held today in Albany: one featuring Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking to groups of students students and teachers released from classes at the Success Academy charter schools headed by Eve Moskowitz and the other featuring NYC Mayor Bill diBlasio speaking to public school supporters. The two are on opposite sides of the fence on two issues regarding public education: the need for charters to pay for space instead of being given a free ride; and the means of paying for prekindergarten. Here’s the article’s recounting of diBlasio’s position on “co-location” of charters in public school space, which shows where these two issues intersect:
During his mayoral campaign last year, Mr. de Blasio said that “well-resourced” charter schools should be charged rent to use space in existing school buildings, known as co-location. He also said he would impose a moratorium on the practice of closing low-performing public schools, which has opened up valuable real estate for use by charters.
One of his first acts in office this year was to reallocate $210 million from a fund originally reserved for charter schools and other nonprofit groups. That money is now likely to be used for prekindergarten classes.
And then last week, the mayor made his most aggressive move yet, reversing the policy set by his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg, who agreed to provide free real estate to the schools so they could open new programs this fall. The three schools had already hired principals and teachers and were in the midst of recruiting students.
The mayor said last week: “I’m not going to mince words about what I feel about how the Bloomberg administration made decisions on co-locations. I think it was abhorrent.”
Cuomo, on the other hand, championed charters, saying:
…people were hungry for new ideas and more choices, which explains why so many parents are on the waiting list for charter schools. (Roughly 70,000 children are educated in 183 charter schools across the city, many in poor neighborhoods.)
“Parents deserve a choice,” he said.
Mr. Cuomo promised to ensure that charter schools have the “financial capacity and physical space and government support to thrive and to grow.”
The article neglected to mention several facts which I garnered from some simple mathematical calculations and the invaluable archives of Diane Ravitch’s blog:
- While 70,000 is a big number, it is only 6% of the students in New York
- And those waiting lists? Read these posts from Diane Ravitch if you think those lists are for real… It seems that if one student signs up for four schools they are counted four times by charter advocates… and if a pro-charter mayor or Governor closes a “failing” school all of the students in that school are placed on a “waiting list”. Bottom line: waiting lists are a myth.
- According to a report by Geoffrey Decker in Chalkbeat, charter advocates–some of whom are on the board of Eva’s chain–have contributed more than $800,000 to Cuomo.
- Section 2853(4)(c) of the NY State Education Law allows districts to lease public school “buildings and grounds” to charters and to “contract for the operation and maintenance thereof,” (but) it also requires that “any such contract shall provide such services or facilities at cost.”… which is to say that Bloomberg’s practice of co-location is arguably against the law… an argument that is being brought to court by public school advocates.
- When New York State Comptroller Tom Di Napoli informed Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain of his intention to audit its financial records, the corporation sued to block the audit of public funds on grounds it was unconstitutional. This is one reason charters want deregulation: audits might uncover unseemly expenditures such as the fact that….
- (Success Academy) spends over $1 million a year on marketing–such as direct mail, ads on buses and bus stop shelters, flyers, etc.– which pumps up the number of applicants for the schools and helps to build the chain’s reputation. It also paid over $500,000 to SDK Knickerbocker, the high-powered D.C. public relations firm, which includes Anita Dunn, who was interim communications director for President Obama in 2009.
- Ms. Moskowitz pays herself $499,000 to head schools enrolling 7,000 students: more than the Chancellor earns for heading 1,100,000 students.
- While tracking student success is difficult because Success Academy refused to be audited or to make its records public, “according to figures on the school’s New York State Report Card, 83 students entered kindergarten in 2006-07, the school’s first year of operation. When that class reached 4th grade in 2010-11, it had only 53 students — a drop of 36 percent. Harlem Success also took in a 1st grade class with 73 students in 2006. When that group reached 5th grade, it too had shrunk appreciably — by 36 percent. The attrition accelerated as the classes advanced. The 2006-07 1st grade class, for example, did not shrink at all as it entered 2nd grade, but saw one sharp falloff between 2nd and 3rd and another between 4th and 5th.” It does not require a Ph.D. in statistics to see how this could skew progress metrics based on standardized tests!
And when it comes to paying for prekindergarten, as noted in earlier posts Cuomo seems to be willing to shortchange K-12 funding throughout the State to pay for a half-baked prekindergarten program in NYC and other districts while diBlasio has not been at all shy about asking for a tax increase on the top .5%.
This fight has only just begun… and it promises to have national ramifications. Here’s hoping that some of the FACTS Diane Ravitch has shared in her blog find their way into the discourse.