turf wars

East Harlem parents pre-emptively organize against charter school

Some East Harlem parents aren’t waiting to find out whether a charter school will move into their school building before organizing against the possibility.

Parents at the Manhattan East School for Arts and Academies recently got wind that the Department of Education was considering placing Harlem Success Academy 5, one of three new charters Eva Moskowitz plans to open next year, in their building. The plan would call for Manhattan East to move to another building across the street to create space for Moskowitz’s school.

The founding principal of Manhattan East, Jacqueline Ancess, said that the DOE did not tell the school that it could be moved; rather, the current principal and parents association head found out that a move was under consideration at an unrelated DOE meeting “by accident,” she said.

Ancess and the school’s parent association responded by sending out a letter yesterday asking parents and supporters to call the city’s information hotline today to ask the city not to relocate the school.

“Manhattan East is a very successful school,” the message urges parents to tell the city. “Moving Manhattan East from its home is unconscionable.”

DOE officials said school supporters’ outrage is premature. “We’re still in the process of looking for space for HSA 5 in District 4,” said DOE spokeswoman Ann Forte. “At this time, no decisions have been made.”

A DOE official said that while the building where Manhattan East is located had been under discussion as a potential location for the new HSA school but that it was not currently a likely choice.

The situation reflects an environment of heightened mistrust of the DOE among parents at many district schools in neighborhoods where charters are also expanding. Across the city, the DOE’s plans to place charter schools in buildings inside district school buildings frequently have been met with fierce resistance from parents at the district schools, who argue that their schools should not be required to give up space and resources for charter schools.

Ancess said that even if thoughts of moving the new HSA school into Manhattan East’s building are abandoned, the fact that the DOE would consider moving a successful district school to give space to a new charter demonstrated that the city is giving unfair preference to charters.

“It’s okay with them to consider moving Manhattan East, for a school that doesn’t exist yet,” she said. “That’s what is shocking to me.”

Here’s the letter that the former head of Manhattan East, Jacqueline Ancess, sent out to parents:

Dear Family and Friends,   The middle school I started nearly 30 years ago is in trouble and I need you to help.   Tomorrow (Wednesday) at 2 p.m., please call 311 and protest the plans of the NYC Department of Education to permit a charter school–Eva Moskowitz’s fifth “Harlem Success Academy”–from displacing Manhattan East from its home in the building on E. 99th Street.  I suggest that you might tell the 311 operator the following:   “This is a complaint to the NYC Department of Education. I am strongly opposed to the Department of Education evicting Manhattan East from JHS 99 to make room for Eva Moscowitz’s charter school. Manhattan East is a very successful school. Moving Manhattan East from its home is unconscionable.”

Here is what is going on: In a secret deal between Moskowitz and the DOE, without any notification to the Manhattan East community, the stage has been set to eject the school from the home it has been in for over fifteen years.  Manhattan East would be the first successful school that the DOE has tried to oust from its home in an effort to accommodate charter schools at the expense of public schools. Moskowitz, who makes close to $400,000 for managing three schools (more than even chancellor Klein), has made no effort to contact the Manhattan East principal or the PTA president.

This is an unprecedented outrage and the DOE needs to hear your protest.  Call tomorrow and let the DOE know that as a New Yorker and a friend of Manhattan East, you will not stand for their arrogant misuse of power.

This is only one instance of an attack on the public school system by the very people who should be protecting and supporting it.

Please pass this on to other friends of Manhattan East.  Thank you.   Jackie


To promote virtual schools, Betsy DeVos cites a graduate who’s far from the norm

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spoke to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in June.

If Betsy Devos is paying any attention to unfolding critiques of virtual charter schools, she didn’t let it show last week when she spoke to free-market policy advocates in Spokane, Washington.

Just days after Politico published a scathing story about virtual charters’ track record in Pennsylvania, DeVos, the U.S. education secretary, was touting their successes at the Washington Policy Center’s annual dinner.

DeVos’s speech was largely identical in its main points to one she gave at Harvard University last month. But she customized the stories of students who struggled in traditional schools with local examples, and in doing so provided an especially clear example of why she believes in virtual schools.

From the speech:

I also think of Sandeep Thomas. Sandeep grew up impoverished in Bangalore, India and experienced terrible trauma in his youth. He was adopted by a loving couple from New Jersey, but continued to suffer from the unspeakable horrors he witnessed in his early years. He was not able to focus in school, and it took him hours to complete even the simplest assignment.

This changed when his family moved to Washington, where Sandeep was able to enroll in a virtual public school. This option gave him the flexibility to learn in the quiet of his own home and pursue his learning at a pace that was right for him. He ended up graduating high school with a 3.7 GPA, along with having earned well over a year of college credit. Today, he’s working in finance and he is a vocal advocate for expanding options that allow students like him a chance to succeed.

But Thomas — who spoke at a conference of a group DeVos used to chair, Advocates for Children, in 2013 as part of ongoing work lobbying for virtual charters — is hardly representative of online school students.

In Pennsylvania, Politico reported last week, 30,000 students are enrolled in virtual charters with an average 48 percent graduation rate. In Indiana, an online charter school that had gotten a stunning six straight F grades from the state — one of just three schools in that positionis closing. And an Education Week investigation into Colorado’s largest virtual charter school found that not even a quarter of the 4,000 students even log on to do work every day.

The fact that in many states with online charters, large numbers of often needy students have enrolled without advancing has not held DeVos back from supporting the model. (A 2015 study found that students who enrolled in virtual charters in Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin did just as well as similar students who stayed in brick-and-mortar schools.) In fact, she appeared to ignore their track records during the confirmation process in January, citing graduation rates provided by a leading charter operator that were far higher — nearly 40 points in one case — than the rates recorded by the schools’ states.

She has long backed the schools, and her former organization has close ties to major virtual school operators, including K12, the one that generated the inflated graduation numbers. In her first week as education secretary, DeVos said, “I expect there will be more virtual schools.”

expansion plans

Here are the next districts where New York City will start offering preschool for 3-year-olds

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, left, and Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, visited a "Mommy and Me" class in District 27 in Queens, where the city is set to expand 3-K For All.

New York City officials on Tuesday announced which school districts are next in line for free pre-K for 3-year-olds, identifying East Harlem and the eastern neighborhoods of Queens for expansion of the program.

Building on its popular universal pre-K program for 4-year-olds, the city this year began serving even younger students with “3-K For All” in two high-needs school districts. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he wants to make 3-K available to every family who wants it by 2021.

“Our education system all over the country had it backwards for too long,” de Blasio said at a press conference. “We are recognizing we have to reach kids younger and more deeply if we’re going to be able to give them the foundation they need.”

But making preschool available to all of the city’s 3-year-olds will require an infusion of $700 million from the state or federal governments. In the meantime, de Blasio said the city can afford to expand to eight districts, at a cost of $180 million of city money a year.

Funding isn’t the only obstacle the city faces to make 3-K available universally. De Blasio warned that finding the room for an estimated 60,000 students will be a challenge. Space constraints were a major factor in picking the next districts for expansion, he said.

“I have to tell you, this will take a lot of work,” he said, calling it “even harder” than the breakneck rollout of pre-K for all 4-year-olds. “We’re building something brand new.”

De Blasio, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, has made expansion of early childhood education a cornerstone of his administration. The city kicked off its efforts this September in District 7 in the South Bronx, and District 23 in Brownsville, Brooklyn. More than 2,000 families applied for those seats, and 84 percent of those living in the pilot districts got an offer for enrollment, according to city figures.

According to the timeline released Thursday, the rollout will continue next school year in District 4 in Manhattan, which includes East Harlem; and District 27 in Queens, which includes Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Rockaways.

By the 2019 – 2020 school year, the city plans to launch 3-K in the Bronx’s District 9, which includes the Grand Concourse, Highbridge and Morrisania neighborhoods; and District 31, which spans all of Staten Island.

The 2020 – 2021 school year would see the addition of District 19 in Brooklyn, which includes East New York; and District 29 in Queens, which includes Cambria Heights, Hollis, Laurelton, Queens Village, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans.

With all those districts up and running, the city expects to serve 15,000 students.

Admission to the city’s pre-K programs is determined by lottery. Families don’t have to live in the district where 3-K is being offered to apply for a seat, though preference will be given to students who do. With every expansion, the city expects it will take two years for each district to have enough seats for every district family who wants one.