Adhering to a campaign promise, Mayor Bill de Blasio began curtailing the rapid expansion of charter schools throughout the city, including some Success Academy charters run by former City Council Member Eva Moskowitz. A close associate with former mayor Michael Bloomberg, Moskowitz was given free rein to open 22 city charter schools with millions upon millions of dollars available for operations, as Bloomberg pushed his charter school agenda with a vengeance over the last decade.
Last week, de Blasio announced that the majority of the Bloomberg/Dennis Walcott-approved 45 colocation decisions approved would be allowed to open aside from six schools, including three Success Academy charter schools. This leaves 194 children looking for new schools next year.
Moskowitz and her charter school advocate movement decried de Blasio’s decision to revoke $200 million in capital funding for charter schools and for canceling the Bloomberg-endorsed decision to continue his trend by giving another three charters rent-free public school space.
Citing the fact that he approved 14 of 17 proposals to allow charter schools in public school spaces, including five run by Moskowitz, the mayor noted, “By definition, we have shown an openness and a willingness to work with everyone. We will work with charter schools.
“We came up with criteria. We said we do not want to put, for example, an elementary school in a high school building,” said de Blasio. “We do not want to displace any special ed kids.”
The city is not against charter schools, de Blasio stated. “We are for helping all children served by our public school district. That’s why we are committed to helping families of Success Academy 4 find a new space, but we will not support colocation policies that benefit some students at the expense of children with disabilities,” he said.
“I support charter schools having the right to exist, but they must pay their rent or get their own building. They don’t have the right to impose their bills on the city,” the Rev. Al Sharpton told the AmNews. “Secondly, let us remember that Mayor de Blasio granted 14 charter schools colocations, and of the eight Eva Moskowitz requested, she got five. The dispute is over three. This is not about charter schools, it’s about someone demanding all that they want or else, and no one should be able to dictate to the city at the expense of public school children.”
Pitting friends against friends, teachers against colleagues, students against other pupils, activists against elected officials and politicians against each other, the charter school versus public school debate is raging across the nation.
“Promoting segregation, whether in education or society, is wrong. In traditional public school buildings, many children have to endure a ‘separate but equal’ reality from charter school students,” charged activist Marquez Claxton. “Worse yet, charter schools have become addicted to rent-free space and accommodations at the expense of traditional public education. The charter school lotteries are a gamble that keeps the majority of public school children betting over their heads and on the outside looking in.”
Meanwhile, educational activist groups and individuals have merely stepped up the fight they have been entrenched in for years, including Public Advocate Letitia James, the United Federation of Teachers and the NAACP. There have been and will continue to be rallies, press conferences, political posturing and street corner theater as this issue plays out center stage while the city’s 1.1 million school children look on, and while anxious parents and guardians hold out hope that the politicos and other-agenda financiers work it out with minimum collateral damage.
“When colocations are jammed through without input from parents, teachers and our communities—and without properly analyzing the impact they would have on our children—we simply can’t stand by. I commend the de Blasio administration for setting the right precedent and blocking some forced colocations, but we must do more to ensure that every child has access to quality education and that parents’ voices are heard,” James told the AmNews. “Last Saturday, we heard from parents whose children were having lunch at 9:30 a.m. in the morning; whose children didn’t have access to physical education or libraries; and most upsetting, we heard from parents whose special needs children weren’t receiving the support they need to thrive.”
April Henderson, who runs the Bed Stuy-based April Showers Day Care Center, said that she witnesses the strain expressed by many of the children she comes into contact with. The educator said, “They should work out a system where there is the same curriculum and the same resources for all the children.What is happening now is not fair to the majority of public school students. If charter schools get better results, then they should use that model in every single school, but they should not take funds from public schools to fund charter schools in public school spaces.”
Last week, Moskowitz took 7,000 people, students included, to protest in Albany to get a compliant Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s support, and to demand that de Blasio doesn’t stop the expansion of her schools. An amped Cuomo boomed, “You are not alone. We will save charter schools. I am committed to ensuring charter schools have the financial capacity, the physical space and the government support to thrive and to grow.”
The result of all this back-and-forth is that Moskowitz is suing the mayor’s administration. While no one from Harlem Success Academy, including Moskowitz, responded to AmNews phone calls, last week in the press, she quipped, “Instead of shutting down an extremely high-performing school, I’d think that the mayor would want to focus on solving the education crisis.”
The irony of Moskowitz’s lawsuit, some say, is that she is fighting the displaced students whom she displaced through her aggressive expansion into public schools, for which she is not paying rent. She does, however, pay herself a reported $475,000 salary.
Last October, the Daily News reported, “New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who runs more than 1,600 public schools, earns $212,614, less than 16 of the city’s top charter school executives.”
“We cannot submit ourselves to undeclared hedge fund-funded education reform agendas,” said activist Caleef Cousar. “This is an underground national movement to change the way our children are schooled and what they learn.”
“The charter school zealots are utilizing all of their political and media relationships to frame a false argument,” proclaimed Claxton. “They are selling themselves as innovative public education practitioners, all the while ignoring the imposition and drain on the already limited resources normally budgeted for our traditional public schools. Their political allies and media friends are granting them unfettered access and support without critical analysis.”
Lifelong activist minister the Rev. Herbert Daughtry said de Blasio simply “removed charter schools from several locations, demanded by parents and community members. He had stated he wasn’t against charter schools and would find space for the charter schools, which have been removed. It did not stop the misrepresentation of the media blitz, orchestrated by Ms. Moskowitz, the $450,000-plus-a-year Success Academy charter schools czar.
“Observing the saturation of Black and Brown parents assailing the mayor and the professional organizing of children to solicit sympathy, I am driven to question if these alleged parents, without truths and/or facts, are sent on a mission by Ms. Moskowitz in an attempt to expand her kingdom in spite of what the overwhelming number of taxpaying parents think or want.”