turf wars

At Brooklyn's PS 9, state overturns a space-sharing plan, again

For the second time in less than a year, State Education Commissioner David Steiner is putting a kibosh on a city charter school siting.

Steiner yesterday annulled a contentious February Panel for Educational Policy vote to place Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School inside the PS 9 building in Prospect Heights. His 16-page decision sides with seven parents who filed a lawsuit alleging many failures in the Department of Education’s proposal, including that it had not provided mandated details about how the colocation would affect the use of common spaces such as the building’s gym and cafeteria.

“I am unable to conclude that DOE’s failure to comply with the statute’s requirements in this respect was harmless error,” Steiner wrote.

The decision bars the city from trying again to site a charter school in the PS 9 building until it releases a new plan that includes the missing information. Because state law requires that any plan be approved six months before a new school moves in, it’s unlikely that the city could get permission to place Brooklyn East Collegiate inside PS 9 this fall.

Meanwhile, another school already open in the building, MS 571, is set to start phasing out due to poor performance, and PS 9 administrators say they will push to add middle school grades.

Last August, Steiner threw out the city’s plan to expand Girls Prep Charter School inside its Lower East Side building because the city had not given enough information about how the expansion would affect disabled students. (At the same time, he rejected an argument from parents at Brooklyn’s PS 15 that the city had inadequately explained the impact of a space-sharing plan there.) Then-Chancellor Joel Klein at first threatened to use emergency powers to push the expansion through, but he later reversed his position and told Girls Prep to find new space, delaying the opening of its new middle school by several weeks.

Although Steiner allowed PS 9 parents to achieve their ultimate goal — keeping Brooklyn East Collegiate out of the building — he dismissed several elements of their argument. For example, he discarded the parents’ argument that the colocation should be blocked because the city had not consulted with parent groups or school officials at PS 9 and MS 571. The city is not required to do that kind of consultation before proposing colocations, Steiner said.

Still, Steiner’s decision indicates that the state is continuing to scrutinize the city’s adherence to the charter school law passed last year. The law set out strict rules for colocations, including the one to provide thorough details about their impact that Steiner concluded the city violated at PS 9.

on the run

‘Sex and the City’ star and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon launches bid for N.Y. governor

Cynthia Nixon on Monday announced her long-anticipated run for New York governor.

Actress and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon announced Monday that she’s running for governor of New York, ending months of speculation and launching a campaign that will likely spotlight education.

Nixon, who starred as Miranda in the TV series “Sex and the City,” will face New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in September’s Democratic primary.

Nixon has been active in New York education circles for more than a decade. She served as a  longtime spokeswoman for the Alliance for Quality Education, a union-backed advocacy organization. Though Nixon will step down from that role, according to a campaign spokeswoman, education promises to be a centerpiece of her campaign.

In a campaign kickoff video posted to Twitter, Nixon calls herself “a proud public school graduate, and a prouder public school parent.” Nixon has three children.

“I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today,” she says.

Nixon’s advocacy began when her oldest child started school, which was around the same time the recession wreaked havoc on education budgets. She has slammed Gov. Cuomo for his spending on education during his two terms in office, and she has campaigned for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In 2008, she stepped into an emotional fight on the Upper West Side over a plan to deal with overcrowding and segregation that would have impacted her daughter’s school. In a video of brief remarks during a public meeting where the plan was discussed, Nixon is shouted down as she claims the proposal would lead to a “de facto segregated” school building.

Nixon faces steep competition in her first run for office. She is up against an incumbent governor who has amassed a $30 million war chest, according to the New York Times. If elected, she would be the first woman and the first openly gay governor in the state.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”