Charter schools

New York

Mayor and chancellor tout their affinity with Obama on schools

New York

A divided house spars over charter schools' growth in Harlem

The large auditorium at P.S. 194 in Harlem was filled to the brim for last night's meeting. <em>Photo by Kyla Calvert. </em> Despite repeated cries for a calmer debate, including one from a City Council representative who said he was dismayed by the "divided house," it was wagging fists, name-calling, and raucous shouting matches that ruled the day at a hearing last night in Harlem. The crowd had gathered to discuss the city's proposal to replace P.S. 194, an elementary school the city announced in December it plans to phase out, with a charter school founded by Eva Moskowitz. But they left late last night with no consensus on what to do next, aside from the resounding certainty that the move to add more charter schools to Harlem — which now has 24 charter schools, making it second only to New Orleans in market saturation — will not happen without a bitter fight. Among those who spoke out against the charter school coming into P.S. 194 were Annie B. Martin, president of the New York chapter of the NAACP; City Council member Robert Jackson; City Council member Inez Dickens; a staff member of state Sen. Bill Perkins; and a representative of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Jackson not only condemned the decision but said he is considering holding a hearing at City Hall to pursue the matter. The dissenting voices often collided with equally passionate parents and teachers at the charter school, Harlem Success Academy 2, and the two camps found themselves in several shouting matches. At one point, a P.S. 194 mother screamed so loudly into the microphone about her despair that 194 is shutting down that a Harlem Success mother stood up with her finger to her mouth. "Shh!" she said. When the woman did not calm down, the charter school mother took her twin son and daughter by the hand and pulled them out of the auditorium. "I don't need my kids to see this," another Harlem Success mother had said moments earlier, tugging her children out of the assembly hall. At other moments, emotional testimony led pockets of the audience to rise to their feet in anger. The shouting drowned out any words.
New York

A charter school operator challenges Moskowitz on her approach

Steve Evangelista at his charter school, Harlem Link. (Photo courtesy of Evangelista) Eva Moskowitz, the City Council member turned charter school operator, has for years been blunt about the forces that oppose her approach to improving education: other politicians, the city teachers union, and anyone else who has a stake in what she sees as the status quo. Last night, in a quiet conversation on 144th Street in Harlem, Moskowitz learned that she has a new critic, and he's a little different from the others. He's Steve Evangelista, a Harlem charter school operator himself. Evangelista approached Moskowitz with his concerns after a public hearing to discuss a Department of Education plan to install Moskowitz's Harlem Success Academy 2 charter school inside a traditional public school building. The Harlem Success school, along with another charter school that's already in the building, would effectively replace P.S. 194, an elementary school whose low test scores and declining enrollment moved the DOE to phase it out of existence. The school has only 14 kindergartners this year, and about 70% of students in 194's zone attend school somewhere else. The portion is even higher for kindergarten-aged students: 84%. The swap reflects a goal that Chancellor Joel Klein and Moskowitz share: To replace district schools they consider failures with new, better schools — and to do so as quickly as possible. Moskowitz has set herself a goal of opening 40 charter schools in a decade. Evangelista, who also runs a Harlem charter school, Harlem Link, came to watch the proceedings, and afterward he sought Moskowitz out to discuss her approach. When their conversation ended, he explained to me that his main concern is with Moskowitz's dramatic ambitions. Aiming for such fast change requires her to adopt an antagonistic stance toward existing schools, he said. He worries that the attitude could ultimately doom her goal of improving public schools.
New York

In Harlem, a reignited fight over homes for charter schools

As it tries to find homes for more than 20 new charter schools that are set to open this fall, the city is reigniting concerns about whether charter schools should be given space inside public school buildings. In recent weeks, the Department of Education has announced that it will allow several charter schools to open inside existing school buildings. Last week, the DOE told Harlem's PS 241 that it will close and be replaced by a new charter school in the Harlem Success Network, run by the divisive Eva Moskowitz. Some PS 241 backers say the DOE is favoring charter schools rather than trying to improve a low-performing neighborhood school. But charter proponents say that local schools have performed poorly for so long that the DOE is merely responding to parents' demands by offering space for more charter schools. PS 241 is the first zoned school the DOE has proposed replacing wholesale with charter schools. (Another charter school moved into the building in 2006.) But the arguments over whether charter schools should be given space in DOE facilities are not new. In fact, Elizabeth reported about a nearly identical situation a year ago, also in Harlem. Just substitute PS 241 for PS 123 in this summary of the politics around the charter school fight: Ms. Moskowitz brought hundreds of parents to P.S. 123 last night to make the case that adding a new charter school there would improve public education by improving parents' options. She said 3,500 students have already applied to the three schools she aims to open by September. ...
New York

Union launches "BE NICE" campaign against KIPP founders

Part of the flier the union sent out today. In its campaign to unionize a KIPP charter school in Brooklyn, the national American Federation of Teachers union has a new target: other teachers in the wide KIPP network. The AFT today reached out to KIPP teachers from San Jose to D.C. to Boston, asking them to join an e-mail campaign to urge the charter network's co-founders to recognize the union. The saga began earlier this year, when 15 teachers at the Brooklyn school, called KIPP AMP, told school officials that they want to form a union with the help of the local United Federation of Teachers. They said a union would help them feel more secure in their jobs and have a stronger say in building their school. KIPP leaders, who have traditionally touted their freedom from teachers unions as a strength, because it allows them to hire and fire as they please, could have recognized the union and worked with it. Instead, they have hedged — and even indicated they might fight back against the teachers or drop their affiliation with the Brooklyn school. A state labor board is now considering the teachers' petitions. (And the group of teachers, meanwhile, has swelled to 16 from 15.) The fliers sent today ask KIPP teachers to send e-mail messages to KIPP's co-founders, Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg, asking them to recognize the union — and offer teachers tips on how they could form a union themselves. Titled "BE NICE," a riff on the KIPP motto, "Work Hard. Be Nice," the fliers narrate the story of how Levin and Feinberg founded KIPP 14 years ago. "They put good ideas together with hard work and a relentless drive," the flier says. "They also worked for supportive administrators who gave Dave and Mike the power they wanted to start a new program." The flier goes on: Today in Brooklyn, a dedicated group of KIPP teachers and parents want the same thing and they're forming a union and PTA to have a stronger voice. They're asking for the power to add their own knowledge to the program and to sustain the school's success. Full flier is below the jump.
New York

Union: KIPP charter leaders are waging an intimidation campaign

The city teachers union is accusing the elite KIPP charter school network of waging an intimidation campaign against teachers who are trying to unionize. The dispute began in January, when teachers at a Brooklyn KIPP school shocked the charter school world by petitioning to join the powerful United Federation of Teachers. At the time, Dave Levin, KIPP’s cofounder and the superintendent of its New York City schools, indicated that he was open to working with the union — even though many KIPP supporters oppose working with unions, which they argue block schools’ ability to teach at-risk urban students by imposing strict work rules on schools. (KIPP stands for the Knowledge is Power Program.) Now, the union is accusing Levin of urging teachers not to unionize and painting a bleak picture of what will happen if they do. The accusations are cataloged in two complaints the UFT sent to the state labor board in the last nine days arguing that KIPP is improperly blocking teachers’ ability to unionize. The latest complaint, filed Wednesday, adds to complaints first aired in a Sunday New York Times story reporting that KIPP is resisting the teachers' organizing drive. The complaints accuse a KIPP human resources official of telling teachers that he is concerned that the Brooklyn school will lose its affiliation with the KIPP network if they organize; they accuse the school's founding principal, Ky Adderley, of sitting in the hallway every day to monitor teachers, and they accuse Levin of making a rare attendance at a staff meeting to encourage teachers to reverse their decision to unionize. Levin and a KIPP spokesman did not return telephone messages requesting comment today.
New York

Mayor beats his own deadline to open 100 charter schools

As he gears up to run for a third term, Mayor Bloomberg announced today that he has made good on a 2005 campaign promise to double the number of charter schools in the city. Bloomberg said in October 2005 that he would bring the number of charter schools in the city to 100 by the end of his second term this year. At the time, there were fewer than 50 charters open in the city, and state law allowed only 100 charters altogether. The law changed in 2007 and since then, the state, city Department of Education, and SUNY system have granted charters at breakneck speed. This fall, 100 charter schools will be open in the city. Bloomberg's vigorous lobbying influenced the legislature's decision two years ago to permit more charters, and today, his support for the movement won him a "Champion for Charters" award from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, an organization that promotes the schools. The award ceremony took place at Brooklyn Charter School, a Bedford-Stuyvesant elementary school that was the first DOE-authorized charter school. The number of charter schools operating in the city grew from 17 when Bloomberg first took office in 2002 to 78 this school year. This fall, there will be anywhere from 99 to 104 charters open, depending on the results of Bloomberg's attempt to convert some shrinking Catholic schools to charters and on whether the State Education Department approves the first charter school for Staten Island. (That school would serve children with special needs.) A couple of low-performing charter schools have also closed. On average, charter schools outperform other city public schools on state tests and on the city's progress reports. The city's full press release about Bloomberg's award, and the rise in the number of charter schools, is after the jump. Also in the press release: a list of 25 charter schools that will open either in the fall or in 2010.