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July 10, 2009
A tour reignites a feud, and sheds light on Harlem space wars
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer reflects on his tour of P.S. 123 today. Scott Stringer and Eva Moskowitz are fighting again, not over an elected office this time, but over school space. Stringer, who defeated Moskowitz in a fierce borough presidency race in 2005, reignited the flames by taking a tour of a Harlem elementary school today. The school, P.S. 123, shares space with Harlem Success Academy 2, one of Moskowitz's four charter schools. Charter schools are public schools that are privately operated. Stringer's visit, guided by P.S. 123 parents, teachers, and members of the activist group ACORN, was the latest attempt by supporters of the school to try to stop Harlem Success from expanding into its classrooms as the charter school adds a first grade. (An earlier scuffle between the two schools ended with police intervention.) The building tour provided a rare on-the-ground view of the space wars that have accelerated as more and more school buildings house multiple schools. Piles of furniture and boxes of supplies cluttered a third floor hallway, the detritus of Harlem Success' move last week, P.S. 123 parents and teachers explained. School supporters also pointed to spaces they fear they will lose to the charter school, including a gym that Harlem Success has proposed splitting in half by partition so that both schools could use it at once. They said they also worry their library will be converted into a classroom.
July 8, 2009
Harlem lawmakers push for neighborhood-focused charter cap
Protestors at P.S. 123 yesterday applauded lawmakers pushing for limits on charter schools in Harlem. Eva Moskowitz, the C.E.O. of the Success Charter Network, was a particular target. (Photo screenshot from video below.) The next front for the Harlem school wars could be Albany. City Council member Inez Dickens yesterday proposed changing the state law to cap the number of charter schools that a single operator can open in a given school district. She was speaking at a protest against the Success charter school network's expansion into a traditional Harlem public school, P.S. 123. Dickens said she had the support of state Sen. Bill Perkins, and Keith Wright, an Assemblyman representing Harlem, said he would introduce legislation to make that change on his side of the legislature. A neighborhood- and operator-specific cap would add to what exists now, a cap on the number of charter schools across New York state at 200. There are 1,500 public schools in the city. Such a cap would also squarely challenge the strategy the Success Charter Network has pursued of opening a large number of charter schools in a designated area; Eva Moskowitz, the network's CEO, has said her goal is to open 40 Harlem charter schools in the next 10 years.
May 19, 2009
Mayoral control critics give school board literal rubber stamps
Protesters derailed the monthly city school board meeting last night, filing out during the middle of the meeting with chants of "Hey hey, ho ho, one-man-rule has got to go!" The protesters are part of the Campaign for Better Schools, a coalition of community groups that is pushing the state legislature to add checks to the mayor's control of public schools. They argue that the school board, currently known as the Panel for Educational Policy, is nothing more than a rubber stamp for the mayor's school policies. Panel members have almost always voted with the administration since Mayor Bloomberg fired three members who signaled they would oppose a third-grade promotion policy in 2005. The group began the meeting, at Stuyvesant High School in Lower Manhattan, with a rally outside the school, then filed quietly into the meeting room, nearly filling the lower level of an auditorium as they listened to a presentation about swine flu. But as Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who chairs the PEP, tried to shift the topic of conversation to test scores, the Campaign for Better Schools protesters stood up, and one member launched into a speech encouraging panel members to "think for yourselves." "In the meantime, for those of you who cannot, we have brought you something that we hope you can use moving forward," the speaker said, referring to actual rubber stamps the campaign had made that read "PEP approved." As the protesters left the auditorium, one of them, William Hargraves, launched into an impassioned speech of his own, which starts at the beginning of the second minute of the video above. "Yo, chancellor," he said. "What did you prove? Ninety percent of your audience left. ... You'd rather be in front of nobody so that you can say what you've got to say, than to hear what the majority got to say?"
May 8, 2009
Harlem Success, unionized charter score high as more data flows
The data on city schools' English Language Arts scores keeps churning out. The Department of Education has just published Excel files sorting scores by school, grade level, special education status, gender, race and ethnicity, and English proficiency from 2006 to this year. A spokesman says that figures on charter schools are on the way. In the meantime, here's a document from the state charter school lobbyists with every charter school in the city's proficiency rates. In New York City, charter schools out-performed traditional public schools on the test, and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein congratulated the schools on the high scores today at a press conference in Manhattan. Among the top scorers are two charter schools we've followed here: Harlem Success Academy 1 in Manhattan, notable for its founder, Eva Moskowitz, who has regularly challenged the role of teachers unions, and Renaissance Charter School in Queens, notable in part because its teachers and administrators are represented by unions.
May 1, 2009
On NY1, Weingarten floats making the word "tenure" optional
Teachers union president Randi Weingarten and one of her chief adversaries, charter school operator Eva Moskowitz, provided some of the conflict expected during their live television debate tonight. But by the end of the segment on NY1's "Road to City Hall," host Dominic Carter had gotten the pair to agree to visit each other's schools, and Weingarten had suggested that she's prepared to jettison the word "tenure" when it comes to negotiating with charter schools, which typically are not unionized. Moskowitz kicked off the debate with a trademark attack on the teachers union, saying that inflexible, "top-down" union contracts inhibit schools from flexibly meeting student needs. She said later in the segment that teachers are "fleeing" traditional public schools, noting that 7,000 people applied for just 52 teaching positions in the four Harlem Success charter schools that she runs. Weingarten appeared exasperated as she told Moskowitz that such a characterization of the teachers contract is outdated. "Maybe it's been a long time, in terms of you not looking at the UFT-Board of Education contract," she said. "There's a lot of flexibility in that contract these days." Weingarten repeatedly emphasized that she wasn't interested in making the conversation a debate about unions vs. charter schools. She said charter schools should be considered incubators for innovation, reiterating a statement she first made last week at an event hosted by the conservative Manhattan Institute. "Let's make them great laboratories of labor relations as well," she said. "I would love it if we could do some contracts in your schools," Weingarten said to Moskowitz. Later, Weingarten said, "Eva, listen, let's try to not continue a path of conflict. ... In your schools, let's find a way to do due process without the word tenure."
April 30, 2009
The long-awaited Moskowitz-Weingarten TV matchup starts now
Eva Moskowitz and Randi Weingarten will debate tonight on NY1’s evening news talk show. (GothamSchools‘ Flickr.) There’s plenty more I’d like to…
April 28, 2009
Principals in Harlem are adapting to heightened competition
Harlem's school choice wars reached a new height this spring when the Department of Education moved to replace PS 194 and PS 241, zoned elementary schools, with charter schools, saying that local families were electing not to enroll at the zoned schools anyway. A lawsuit stymied that change, but the battle raged on — and is set to continue on Thursday night with a televised showdown between charter school operator Eva Moskowitz and union president Randi Weingarten. Now, principals on the sidelines are learning from watching the fight, according to a report by a Columbia University journalism student. Kyla Calvert, one of the students behind the Web site about the Department of Education's no-bid contracts, just published a report on a class Web site about how principals and parents are responding to increased competition among schools. From Calvert's article: ”I agree with the philosophy that competition breeds excellence,” said Charles DeBerry, principal of P.S. 76, a school with about 370 students in Kindergarten through sixth grade. “But color copies are expensive. One of these costs me $.25,” DeBerry said, holding up a simple brochure created by some of his staff members. “I look at the things the charter schools are sending out and there’s just no way I can compete with them.” The number of kindergartners at PS 76 is down by a third this year, DeBerry told Calvert.
April 27, 2009
Rivals Moskowitz and Weingarten will debate this week on NY1
Eva Moskowitz and Randi Weingarten will debate this week on NY1's evening news talk show. (GothamSchools' Flickr.) Two education leaders who have been dueling via press releases, bristling statements to reporters, and dueling events in Harlem will come face-to-face this week, in a debate broadcast on NY1, the local TV news channel, spokespeople for both leaders have confirmed. The debate is scheduled for this Thursday night. Randi Weingarten, the leader of the politically powerful teachers union, is preparing to debate Eva Moskowitz, the former City Council member-turned-charter school operator, on Dominic Carter's evening talk show, "The Road to City Hall." The teachers union spokesman, Brian Gibbons, said that NY1 contacted Weingarten and asked her to appear on the show with Moskowitz. Weingarten said yes.
April 24, 2009
Political, parenting strategies align at Harlem Success lottery
A line of parents that wrapped around the block, blue and orange balloons, and a carefully choreographed program greetged hopeful families and political supporters last night at the admission event for the four Harlem Success Network charter schools. In addition to the main event, the naming of admitted students, the evening featured a barnstorming speech by Schools Chancellor Joel Klein (in the video above), a surprise announcement about charter school funding from State Sen. Malcolm Smith, and political exhortations from Eva Moskowitz, Harlem Success's lightning rod CEO. "I wish we could open them faster and have spots for absolutely everyone," Moskowitz said about her schools to the thousands of assembled parents. But she said, "There are special interests and even elected officials who don't support the growth of charter schools." Moskowitz has sparred for years with the teachers union over her aggressive school reform strategies. For the thousands of parents in attendance, politics took a distant second to anxiety about whether their children would be among the 475 selected from the 3,500 entered into the lottery.
April 23, 2009
Charter schools will get $30M in one-shot plan to counter freeze
PHOTO: Alan PetersimeA Queens charter school encouraged parents and students to call Governor David Paterson and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith after it learned charter schools could see their funding frozen. Paterson and Smith are now sending the schools $30 million. (##http://picasaweb.google.com/teach11372/RenaissanceCharterRallyAndMarchAgainstCharterCuts#5319497282636828866##Nicholas##) Governor David Paterson and Malcolm Smith, the state Senate majority leader, are back in good favor with their long-lost charter school friends. Smith has just announced a plan to counteract a budget freeze that took the schools by surprise earlier this year, by sending the schools a one-time $30 million grant. The grant is less than the $51 million that charter schools were slated to lose after legislators axed planned funding increases in their recent budget deal. And it will expire at the end of next year, leaving supporters to wage a new fight over funds then. But a source familiar with the plan who is a supporter of charter schools said that $30 million will be enough to help schools that had been imagining slashing after-school programs and turning down extra staff they'd already hired for next year. Smith announced the planned injection just now at a charter school lottery in Harlem, which Philissa is covering. The lottery is the annual event for the former City Council member Eva Moskowitz, who runs the Success Charter Network in Harlem. Harlem Success is expecting more than 5,000 parents at the lottery, which will determine which children are selected to attend the schools.
April 9, 2009
Moskowitz asks Weingarten to retract her "hypocrite" accusation
The latest in the cue-card extravaganza: Here's a letter that the former City Council member-turned-charter school operator Eva Moskowitz just sent to teachers union president Randi Weingarten, her rival. The letter is a response to Weingarten's appearance on Fox 5's Good Day New York this morning. Weingarten told Fox 5 that City Council members commonly ask the teachers union for advice on issues. She said that Moskowitz herself asked for information when she chaired the council's education committee. "I find that people shouldn't be hypocrites," Weingarten said. "Eva used to ask us all the time when she was education chair for questions to prep the City Council about, you know, what's really going on in schools." Moskowitz writes back today in a letter to Weingarten saying that the characterization is false — and demanding a retraction: I never asked the UFT or any party to propose questions for me. I held over a hundred days of hearings as Chairperson of the Education Committee. I demand that you identify a single instance in which I asked the UFT for questions or used questions prepared for me by the UFT. You will be unable to find such an example because it does not exist. In light of that, please retract your inaccurate and defamatory statement. A rivalry between Weingarten and Moskowitz burst open in 2005 when Weingarten campaigned heavily against Moskowitz's bid for borough president of Manhattan. Moskowitz had targeted labor unions in hearings when she chaired the education committee. This week, Moskowitz testified at the same hearing that drew the controversy that a "union-political complex" is holding the city back. Here's the full letter:
April 9, 2009
Eli Broad invests $2.5 million in two city charter school networks
Two New York City-based charter school networks, Uncommon Schools and Eva Moskowitz's Success Charter Network, are splitting $2.5 million in grants meant to help them expand in size speedily. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation doled out the money and made its announcement today. The full press release is below. The most interesting part that I see is the disclosure that the Uncommon Schools network plans to expand to operate 33 schools by 2014, 20 of them in New York City. The network now has nine charter schools in the city, by my count. The Success network's plan, which has been reported before, is to expand its current crop of four schools to 40 in the next 10 years. Only Uncommon Schools is said to be planning to use the money to invest in facilities. The full press release:
April 7, 2009
Moskowitz: Union-political complex holding charter schools back
In her first appearance before the City Council committee that she used to chair, controversial charter school operator Eva Moskowitz today warned members of…
April 6, 2009
City Council moves to regulate city's placement of charter schools
The former chair of the City Council education committee, Eva Moskowitz, talked to the current chair, Robert Jackson, before today's hearing on charter schools. Moskowitz runs a charter school network, while Jackson said he is skeptical of charter schools. (<em>GothamSchools</em>, Flickr) City Council members today moved to regulate the process of placing charter schools in public school buildings, introducing a resolution that they said would avoid conflicts between families at neighborhood schools and new charter schools placed inside of them. Right now, Department of Education officials offer some charter schools space in public school buildings on their own, but the space-sharing arrangements are sometimes contentious. (Charter schools receive public funding, but operate outside of the DOE watch and are not guaranteed space in public school buildings.) The Council resolution would force the department to follow some kind of a regular procedure — probably involving a requirement to work with members of a neighborhood — before it could place a charter school in a public building. "Make community stakeholders part of that process," City Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo, of the Bronx, said. "You fail miserably at including the people that have to deal with the fallout of the decisions that you make." Council Member Jessica Lappin of Manhattan, who chairs the council's work on public land use issues, said that charter schools should be placed in the same way that new traditional public schools are placed. "I have worked very hard to bring community members, principals, and the Department of Education together so that we can resolve the issues that inevitably arise," Lappin said. Why, she asked, shouldn't charter schools be placed in the same way? Testifying before the council, Department of Education officials said they agree that they need to improve the way that they bring in new schools, but they declined to support the resolution that would force them to follow a new procedure when doing it.
April 2, 2009
Harlem parents say they want their local schools shut down
A group of parents is sharply criticizing the Department of Education for backing away from its decision to shut down struggling neighborhood elementary schools, saying Mayor Bloomberg should "take a hard line" and turn over the buildings to be used as charter schools. The parents, who are zoned to have their children attend two of the schools that would have been closed and replaced with charter schools, said that they want the mayor to shut the schools down because the schools are dirty, dangerous, and filled with teachers who are "just there for a paycheck." "I live across the street from 194," one mother, Melissia Daley, wrote of P.S. 194, a Harlem elementary school that would have been closed under the city's original plan. "Although it's a zoned school and very convenient for me and my child, I wouldn't even try to put my child in there because the children are well behind in grade." "If they are closing 241 to put a better school in its place, then they should do that," one parent, Martinique Owens, said, of another Harlem school, P.S. 241, in a similar situation. Their statements came in a press release issued this afternoon by a spokeswoman for the Harlem Success Academy network of charter schools, Jenny Sedlis. Two Harlem Success schools were planning to become the sole occupants of the P.S. 194 and P.S. 241 buildings after those schools closed. Those schools will have to continue sharing space with district elementary schools next year.
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