In sharp contrast to the collaborative strategy drawn up last week by some charter school leaders, Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz and her allies are preparing for a public battle as they anticipate unfavorable decisions from the de Blasio administration.

The fight includes a newly unveiled public relations campaign, a quickly evolving lobbying strategy, and preparation for potential legal action. While the past few months of protests and rallies have focused on influencing City Hall, the new efforts (and a rally next Tuesday) will target state lawmakers.

“It has become clear that we must turn to Albany for the leadership to save our schools and protect our scholars’ right to a meaningful, high-quality education,” Moskowitz told the board members of her network’s 22 schools this morning in an email obtained by Chalkbeat.

On their minds is the status of dozens of co-location plans, many of which include new charter schools, that were approved last year. Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to review each of those proposals and decisions are expected to be released soon.

But Moskowitz is already assuming it won’t be good news for at least some of the 10 schools that Success had gotten approval to open next year. If the lobbying tactics don’t work, she said, she will sue.

“Despite our repeated efforts to reach out to this administration, we expect to hear announcements in the next two weeks that a few of our approved schools will not be allowed to open or grow,” Moskowitz said in the email. “As soon as these rollbacks/reversals are announced, we will notify you and plan to take the appropriate legal action.”

The nonprofit advocacy organization Families for Excellent Schools, which works closely with parents of Success and other charter schools, also announced today that it is paying for a series of multi-million dollar broadcast commercials.

FES is also organizing a large rally in Albany next week with the aim of convincing state lawmakers to offer more support for charter schools. Organizers said they expect 2,000 parents and advocates to attend.

Success Academy, as it has done in the past, will bring some of its 22-school network’s 6,700 students. “Buses will be loaded by grade, and we will teach lessons in Civics while on the road,” Moskowitz said in the email.

This week’s developments come just days after Moskowitz and other charter leaders met with Chancellor Carmen Fariña, but learned nothing about de Blasio’s plans for next year’s co-locations.

Moskowitz is now taking a much different tone than the leaders of 27 other charter schools, who said ahead of the meeting that they wanted to forge a working relationship with de Blasio and Fariña. That group is mostly made up of independent charter schools, some of which are unionized, that have partnerships with community-based organizations.

This is just the latest clash between Moskowitz and de Blasio, who have been at odds on education since their days in the City Council. Their interests have collided since de Blasio won the mayoral election after pledging to “stop” the Success network, which opened in 2006 and thrived under the Bloomberg administration.

While students in Success schools regularly outscore both charter and district schools on state tests, de Blasio has repeatedly raised questions about whether Success enrolls as many low-performing and high-need students as nearby district schools. Other critics have said that some charter schools, including Success, don’t do a good enough job “back filling” empty seats with new students.

Amid de Blasio’s criticism, the rally is another sign that charter school supporters now believe Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature are their most important allies. Recent campaign filings show that Cuomo’s reelection campaign has received nearly $800,000 from Success board members and other charter school funders.

The decisions about next year’s co-location plans are in de Blasio’s and Fariña’s hands. But Bill Phillips, president of the Northeast Charter Schools Association, said there are several ways that legislative action could help charter schools, starting with extra funding in the budget, which will be negotiated over the next month.  

“Conversations are going on that look at all the possible ways to make sure that charters continue to flourish and that the 90,000 kids they serve continue to have a choice of a great public school,” Phillips said.
Here’s Moskowitz’s full email:

Board members,

I want to update you and share news of decisive action we are taking to protect our schools. As you know from our meetings and the press clips we have shared, the mayor continues to play politics with our scholars’ futures. This is unacceptable. Despite our repeated efforts to reach out to this administration, we expect to hear announcements in the next two weeks that a few of our approved schools will not be allowed to open or grow. This would be tragic, unfair, and we believe, illegal. As soon as those rollbacks/reversals are announced, we will notify you and plan to take the appropriate legal action. Read today’s editorial in the New York Post, “Opting for Failure.” 

It has become clear that we must turn to Albany for the leadership to save our schools and protect our scholars’ right to a meaningful, high-quality education. On Tuesday, March 4, Success Academy will be joining with charter parents across the city for a PARENT RALLY IN ALBANY.  

Even though our schools will be closed for the rally, we plan to take Success Academy on the road! Buses will be loaded by grade, and we will teach lessons in Civics while on the road. The march and rally at the Capitol will start around mid-day. Parents, teachers, and community leaders will speak and we will deliver letters to our elected officials. It will be a critical moment for Success Academy.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Participate. Come to the rally! Email Kathleen (REDACTED) if you are able to attend.

Stay informed. Join me for an early morning call this Friday, February 28 at 7:30 am. I can answer any questions you may have about the rollbacks, the rally, and other advocacy and communications efforts. Look out for a calendar invite.

Spread the word. Families for Excellent Schools (FES) has launched a new advocacy campaign at www.ChartersWork.org. They will be airing this ad in support of NYC charters and educational choice, starting today. Please share it widely, using #ChartersWork.

Thank you for your leadership and support.

Warmly,

Eva