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NYTimes Maddening Coverage of Success Academy Continues

December 16, 2016

By the time I got to the third paragraph of Kate Taylor’s NYTimes “report” on Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy I had already pulled out most of my hair…. Here are the paragraphs in question, with the offending phrases highlighted: :

Success Academy, New York City’s largest charter school operator, has purchased commercial space in a new high-rise building on Manhattan’s Far West Side for $67.7 million.

The charter network plans to open two schools there, a major shift for Success, which has insisted that the city provide charter schools free space in public school buildings.

Success Academy’s founder, Eva S. Moskowitz, has been engaged in a long-running battle with Mayor Bill de Blasio over space for her rapidly expanding network of schools, which are high-performing but have also drawn criticism for their sometimes harsh methods and instances of pushing out difficult students.

OF COURSE the city has insisted that Ms. Moskowitz’ for profit schools pay for space! There are countless examples of cities, states, and federal government’s offering tax breaks to private for-profit businesses, but I can think of no examples where any government at any level provided free space to an enterprise that was competing with a publicly funded function. Is the post office required to offer free warehouse space to UPS?

And the NYTimes repeated references to Success Academy’s “high-performing” schools is completely unsubstantiated. Even the caveat included in this paragraph (e.g but have also drawn criticism for their sometimes harsh methods and instances of pushing out difficult studentsdoes not mitigate the purported “high performance” label… particularly in light of the fact that Success Academy continues to seek waivers to the tests– like the Regents– that are used to measure “performance”. Until the NYTimes should name Success Academy more accurately: it is a well crafted for-profit enterprise designed to make as much money as possible for its shareholders without concern for the well-being of those children whose parents are unable to meet their implicit standards.

Subsequent paragraphs offered some insights into how the charter industry “works with” politicians and the media to get their way::

As a Democratic candidate, Mr. de Blasio threatened to charge charter schools rent, but he later backed down after charter advocates unleashed millions of dollars in television advertisements attacking him. The State Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, passed a bill requiring the city to pay at least some of charter schools’ rent should it reject their requests for space.

Even so, charter school leaders, in particular Ms. Moskowitz, have accused City Hall of missing deadlines and offering them inadequate space. Last month, Ms. Moskowitz stood outside City Hall with parents from her elementary schools in Brooklyn to complain that the city was offering Success insufficient space for new middle schools it planned to open in the fall. The charter school advocacy group Families for Excellent Schools, which has close ties to Success, is currently running a television advertisement accusing the mayor of “playing politics” by shutting charters out of available space in school buildings.

And who are the charter advocates who paid “millions of dollars in television advertisements” attacking the Mayor? And how does a “charter school advocacy group” afford the money to run a television ad seeking free rent— paid for by taxpayers— for their for-profit charter school?  Why isn’t the NYTimes pursuing THAT question? My hunch is that they might find that the folks who are paying for these advertisements are also making substantial campaign contributions to Governor Cuomo and State legislators. That is, after all, the way pro-privatization advocates operate (see previous posts on Ms. DeVos for some great examples). 

And one last question for the NYTimes might pursue: if Success Academy’s rent is waived, who benefits? I’m certain Ms. Moskowitz would claim that the children in her schools benefit… but I’m equally certain that she would not want to open her books to government auditors to prove that is the case. My hunch: the bottom line benefits— which means the investors in Success Academy benefit.

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