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Major New York City charter school supporter in hot water after racial comment

PHOTO: Jessica Glazer
A charter school rally in 2014.

In the latest public relations headache for Success Academy, a major donor and charter school supporter made racially charged comments about an African-American New York state senator.

Daniel Loeb, who chairs Success Academy’s board, posted a sharp critique on Facebook Thursday night of Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, whose opposition to policies that support charter schools he said harms black students. Stewart-Cousins did “more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood,” Loeb wrote, apparently referring to the Ku Klux Klan costume.

Loeb — who is also a board member of the pro-charter group StudentsFirstNY and a major donor for the charter sector — quickly apologized after the New York Times picked up on the comments. He said he regretted the language he used to express his “passion for educational choice,” according to the Times.

Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz denounced Loeb’s comments on Friday — while suggesting that she also believes that his critique of charter school detractors has some merit.

“An apology for these comments was appropriate and absolutely necessary,” Moskowitz said in a statement. “While it is true that anti-charter policies hurt children of color, we must recognize there are electeds who in good faith hold differing positions on schooling.”

The dustup could be another test for Moskowitz within her network as it prepares to open the school year. Last year, her teachers pressed her to distance herself from the Trump administration, which considered her for the education secretary role. Instead, Moskowitz said that she would oppose Trump policies that hurt the families the schools serve, but would work with the administration to advance school choice. She even had Ivanka Trump and Paul Ryan, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, tour her schools.

Loeb’s comments are also drawing fire from the teachers union president, who praised Stewart-Cousins as a “tireless champion of the school children of this state.”

“She has never wavered in her support for public schools,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew. “Attacking her — particularly in such incendiary terms — is a despicable act.”

The New Chancellor

Tell us: What should the new chancellor, Richard Carranza, know about New York City schools?

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
A student at P.S. 69 Journey Prep in the Bronx paints a picture. The school uses a Reggio Emilia approach and is in the city's Showcase Schools program.

In a few short weeks, Richard Carranza will take over the nation’s largest school system as chancellor of New York City’s public schools.

Carranza, who has never before worked east of the Mississippi, will have to get up to speed quickly on a new city with unfamiliar challenges. The best people to guide him in this endeavor: New Yorkers who understand the city in its complexity.

So we want to hear from you: What does Carranza need to know about the city, its schools, and you to help him as he gets started April 2. Please fill out the survey below; we’ll collect your responses and share them with our readers and Carranza himself.

The deadline is March 23.

buses or bust?

Mayor Duggan says bus plan encourages cooperation. Detroit school board committee wants more details.

PHOTO: Denver Post file
Fourth-graders Kintan Surghani, left, and Rachel Anderson laugh out the school bus window at Mitchell Elementary School in Golden.

Detroit’s school superintendent is asking for more information about the mayor’s initiative to create a joint bus route for charter and district students after realizing the costs could be higher than the district anticipated.

District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a school board subcommittee Friday that he thought the original cost to the district was estimated to be around $25,000 total. Instead, he said it could cost the district roughly between $75,000 and a maximum of $125,000 for their five schools on the loop.

“I think there was a misunderstanding….” Vitti said. “I think this needs a deeper review…The understanding was that it would be $25,000 for all schools. Now, there are ongoing conversations about it being $15,000 to $25,000 for each individual school.”

The bus loop connecting charter and district schools was announced earlier this month by Mayor Mike Duggan as a way to draw kids back from the suburbs.

Duggan’s bus loop proposal is based on one that operates in Denver that would travel a circuit in certain neighborhoods, picking up students on designated street corners and dropping them off at both district and charter schools.

The bus routes — which Duggan said would be funded by philanthropy, the schools and the city — could even service afterschool programs that the schools on the bus route could work together to create.

In concept, the finance committee was not opposed to the idea. But despite two-thirds of the cost being covered and splitting the remaining third with charters, they were worried enough about the increased costs that they voted not to recommend approval of the agreement to the full board.  

Vitti said when he saw the draft plan, the higher price made him question whether the loop would be worth it.

“If it was $25,000, it would be an easier decision,” he said.

To better understand the costs and benefits and to ultimately decide, Vitti said he needs more data, which will take a few weeks. 

Alexis Wiley, Duggan’s chief of staff, said the district’s hesitation was a sign they were performing their due diligence before agreeing to the plan.

“I’m not at all deterred by this,” Wiley said. She said the district, charters, and city officials have met twice, and are “working in the same direction, so that we eliminate as many barriers as we can.”

Duggan told a crowd earlier this month at the State of the City address that the bus loop was an effort to grab the city’s children – some 32,500 – back from suburban schools.

Transportation is often cited as one of the reasons children leave the city’s schools and go to other districts, and charter leaders have said they support the bus loop because they believe it will make it easier for students to attend their schools.

But some board members had doubts that the bus loop would be enough to bring those kids back, and were concerned about giving charters an advantage in their competition against the district to increase enrollment.

“I don’t know if transportation would be why these parents send their kids outside of the district,” Angelique Peterson-Mayberry said. “If we could find out some of the reasons why, it would add to the validity” of implementing the bus loop.

Board member LaMar Lemmons echoed other members’ concerns on the impact of the transportation plan, and said many parents left the district because of the poor quality of schools under emergency management, not transportation.

“All those years in emergency management, that drove parents to seek alternatives, as well as charters,” he said. “I’m hesitant to form an unholy alliance with the charters for something like this.”