Updated — The city’s biggest charter-school network is on a collision course with the city teachers union.
Success Academy Charter Schools is planning to close their schools March 4 for a political rally in Albany, sources say. That’s the same day that the United Federation of Teachers has scheduled its own lobbying day, setting the stage for dueling rallies to divide Albany’s attention and loyalties as the unions push for more school funding and charter schools fight to raise the state’s charter cap.
The 32-school Success Academy network has been a driving force behind a series of parent rallies held in recent years meant to demonstrate the political might of the city’s charter school sector. Though the tactic has at times divided the sector, it has also proven useful for generating headlines and political support, especially since charter schools lost allies in City Hall when the Bloomberg administration left.
Achievement First, a Brooklyn-based charter school network, will also be participating in the rally, a spokesperson for the organization confirmed. A Success spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.
The scheduling tactic isn’t a new one. Last year, Success and the city’s other large charter-school networks brought thousands of parents, teachers and students to the steps of the governor’s mansion in a push for facilities funding backed by the parent-organizing group Families for Excellent Schools. At the same time, Mayor Bill de Blasio and labor groups held their own event down the street asking for funding for pre-kindergarten and after school programs.
A spokesperson for Families for Excellent Schools declined to comment when asked if the group was organizing this year’s rally.
The charter-school rally drew a surprise appearance from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, overshadowing de Blasio’s event. Cuomo, now a close ally to Success, had helped organize the event with Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz, who was enmeshed in a public battle with de Blasio over co-locations involving some of her schools. Weeks later, state lawmakers agreed to fund de Blasio’s pre-K and after-school programs, but also passed a law requiring de Blasio to provide charter schools with free space in public schools or pay rent for them to open in private space.
This year, the stakes are just as high. Charter schools want lawmakers to raise the charter school cap, a move that would allow Success Academy and other charter school networks to continue expanding in the city. Other charter school groups are planning a separate lobbying day next week where they will push for funding and access to facilities for existing schools that weren’t included in last year’s law.
Preventing that from happening is one of many items on the UFT’s agenda when it travels to Albany. It’s trying to block much of Cuomo’s education agenda, which also includes changes to tenure laws and teacher evaluations.