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June 8, 2011
NAACP's Dukes defends suit: "I'm not against charter schools"
Hazel Dukes, the president of the NAACP of New York, said last night on NY1 that she supports charter schools but wants equal conditions for children attending district schools. In a television interview last night, the president of the NAACP of New York insisted that she does not oppose the opening of charter schools or the closure of failing schools — even as she defended her organization's role in a lawsuit that would reverse planned school closures and slow charter school growth. Speaking to NY1 Inside City Hall host Errol Louis, Hazel Dukes said that she only wanted district schools to have the same conditions as charter schools, which she praised. "Let's make it an equal playing field," she said. "That's not hard to do. We can do that with the stroke of a pen." She added, "My motive is not to keep any failing schools open. My motive has never been to say that teachers who can't teach need to be in schools. My motive is two things: justice and equality." Hazel Dukes said she her goal wasn't to prevent charters from opening but that the process was hurried. The biggest effect, she said, was overcrowding in school buildings, which she said has a disproportionate — and negative — impact on district school students. "Mr. Louis, tell me why all children can’t have the same amount of library time. Tell me why all children can’t have access to a playground," she said. The lawsuit, which the NAACP co-filed with the United Federation of Teachers and a host of elected officials and parents, aims to halt the closure of 22 district schools and plans to co-locate 20 charter schools inside district space. City school officials have said that a victory could disturb high school admission plans for the fall, and charter school leaders have said that, without the city space that they were counting on, they would not be able to open schools that children already plan to attend.
May 26, 2011
In Harlem, charter school parents and students target NAACP
Students and families protested today in Harlem against the NAACP's involvement in a lawsuit against school closures and charter school co-locations with district schools. (Chris Arp) About 2,500 people rallied in Harlem this morning, calling on the NAACP to withdraw from its lawsuit with the teachers union against the city Department of Education. That lawsuit seeks to stop the closure of 22 schools as well as the placement of several charter schools in district school space. Speakers at Thursday’s rally included charter school parents and teachers, Harlem Children's Zone president and CEO Geoffrey Canada, and the actor Seth Gilliam from “The Wire,” whose child is a on a waiting list for a charter school. Speakers and attendees denounced the NAACP’s participation in a lawsuit they said would harm charter schools primarily serving students of color. "Ms. Dukes, turn your back on this lawsuit,” said Kathy Kernizan, the parent of a student at the Uncommon Schools charter network, referring to Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference. A letter to Dukes with signatures from charter school advocates was circulated through the crowd asking the organization to withdraw from the suit. A spokesperson for the New York City Charter Center, which helped organize the event, said that more than 2,000 signatures had been collected this week. “We gotta demand quality education,” Canada told the crowd. “We have to be prepared to fight for that.” The city Department of Education's proposal calls for two of the charter schools associated with the Harlem Children's Zone, the Promise Academy charter schools, to be co-located inside district schools. The charter center spokesperson said the protest, held outside the Harlem State Office building at 125th Street, was not the work of any one organization. But at least two groups appear to have taken leading roles: the charter center, an advocacy and support organization for charter schools in the city, and the Success Charter Network created by Eva Moskowitz. Many of the families at the rally had children at one of the Success network's nine schools. (Seven of the network's schools are named in the lawsuit.) Click here for a slideshow of photographs from the rally.
March 25, 2011
A union skeptic, converted by Steve Barr, befriends the UFT
Steve Barr argues that education activists need to move from campaigning to governing. When Gideon Stein first picked up the 2009 New Yorker profile of California charter school leader Steve Barr, he put the article down without finishing it. The story was all about Barr's decision to work with the teachers union rather than fight it. "I was like, eh, how great can his schools be?" Stein, an entrepreneur and real estate developer based in Manhattan, recalled in an interview this week. A board member of at one of Eva Moskowitz's Success Charter Network schools, where teachers are determinedly not unionized, Stein didn't believe that anyone working with a teachers union had a shot at turning a school around. But at the urging of his family, he finished the piece and was so impressed that he asked Moskowitz to broker an introduction. Soon he flew to Los Angeles to visit Locke High School, the school that Barr's group, Green Dot, took over in 2008. The trip was "transformative," Stein said. In Barr, he saw the solution to the problem that troubles many education philanthropists: Successful transformations urban and rural schools are too rare. They have not achieved "scale." "While I love my work with Eva, and I think Eva is just an unbelievable educator and advocate for children," Stein said, "if you really want scale, I think you're going to have to make some compromises." He asked Barr how he could help Green Dot's mission of re-making schools in partnership with labor. Now Stein is the president of Barr's national organization, which changed its name today from Green Dot America to Future Is Now Schools. And he's rejiggered his social calendar. "I've now had dinner and drinks with Randi 10 times in the last eight months," he said, referring to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. Winning the Future
February 2, 2011
Seven things you need to know about last night's PEP meeting
Seven takeaways from last night's marathon Panel for Educational Policy meeting, for those who don't have time for 6,000-plus words, minute-to-minute updates, or actually traveling to Brooklyn Tech in the storm: 1. Bloomberg's agenda was unsurprisingly approved: 10 schools will phase out, four new co-locations will occur. But on the panel, opposition now comes from more members than simply the Manhattan and Bronx appointees. Patrick Sullivan, the Manhattan borough president's appointee, is no longer the sole voice of opposition on the panel. And while Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr.'s appointee has been making opposition known for a while now, the other borough representatives are beginning slowly to join. Only mayoral appointees, for instance, voted in favor of proposals that would benefit the Success Charter Network schools run by CEO Eva Moskowitz, a former City Council member and perennial mayoral hopeful. Besides 'no' votes, another manifestation of opposition to Bloomberg came in the form of a skirmish. From 9:53 p.m.: Audience members told Anna that they saw Sullivan push Morales from behind. Then Tino Hernandez, the panel’s chair, and Deputy Chancellor Santiago Taveras got between them and escorted Sullivan back to his seat. Sullivan then told the audience that one of the mayoral appointees on the panel had approached him to "taunt" him, kicking off the clash. He proposed that the panel postpone their votes to another day on account of the bad weather, but this motion failed. When the parents behind Anna saw the tussle begin, they started yelling: “Security! Where is security?” A few security guards did edge onto the stage but then backed away, Anna reports. Sullivan told the Daily News that he was just tapping Morales on the back. 2. Families reached out across the closure aisle, sometimes poetically. From Anna's 9:12 p.m. report: … some MCA [Metropolitan Corporate Academy, slated for closure] kids are rapping about racism and school closure. The charter school kids and parents are clapping the beat.
October 27, 2010
SUNY trustees approve Success Academy for Upper West Side
A screenshot from Upper West Success Academy's website. The State University of New York's Board of Trustees unanimously approved Eva Moskowitz's application to open a charter school on Manhattan's Upper West Side this morning. But the approval is unlikely to dampen any of the controversy surrounding the Upper West Success Academy, which Moskowitz's charter network plans to open in the fall of 2011. The fight over the school has centered on two questions: Is a new charter school the answer to the district's overcrowding? And, if so, should that charter share another school's building? This is the first time Moskowitz's charter chain plans to open a school in a neighborhood that is not predominantly low-income. Moskowitz has said she intends the school to provide an alternative to parents who have been crowded out of the neighborhood's most popular schools or who cannot send their students to one of the city's gifted programs. Moskowitz has said she would like the charter to open in P.S. 145, which the city currently lists as underutilized. City officials have told the school they are likely to site the charter there, according to P.S. 145 parent leaders, though the city says no decision has been made.
October 23, 2009
Success Charter Network advertising for open spots at new, current schools
With all the talk of budget cuts and the hiring freeze, it's difficult to remember that some city schools are hiring. But there was an eye-catching reminder on the New York Times' home page yesterday — a bright orange and blue ad from the Success Charter Network asking for applicants. Success Charter spokeswoman Jennifer Sedlis said the recruitment drive is aimed at attracting applicants for next school year, when Eva Moskowitz, the network's founder, plans to open three more schools. Harlem Successes 5, 6, and 7 are steps in Moskowitz's goal to open 40 of her charter schools in Harlem in the next decade. "We will have a lot of new positions," Sedlis said.
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.
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 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
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:
November 5, 2008
Harlem child on Obama: "I wish he can be the president forever"
Harlem Success Academy charter schools held mock elections. (Courtesy Harlem Success) Our first peek inside the classroom, Election Week edition, is from the Harlem Success Academy charter school network, the schools run by living-legend Eva Moskowitz. This week Harlem Success teachers organized mock elections for the students, complete with mock election booths. (See right.) And today, students reacted to Barack Obama's victory with great enthusiasm for the president-elect, according to Jenny Sedlis, a top aide to Moskowitz. Sedlis sent me some quotes she collected from students. A quick guide: At Harlem Success, "Class of" refers to the students' projected college graduation class. So a second-grader is Class of 2023. College-for-all in action! Here are the quotes: Guyonna T. (Class of 2023/2nd grade): "I think he's a strong man who can handle the world. I'm so happy I don't know what to do." Sekou C. (Class of 2022/3rd grade): "His dad is from Kenya and mine is from Mali. He made history two times. He was the first African American to win the first round and now he's won the whole thing." When asked what does that mean for you he said, "I guess that means that I can be president too." Jenni F. (Class of 2024/1st Grade): "I wish he can be the president forever."
November 4, 2008
The second coming of Eva Moskowitz
The Times today has a new profile of Eva Moskowitz, the politician-turned-school operator who is at the helm of the four Harlem Success Academy charter schools. I say new because this is actually the second full-length profile of Moskowitz the Times has run. (The first is here.) Why pay so much attention to this charter school operator, amid the sea of them? I'll give two reasons. First, Eva Moskowitz is not just trying to improve public schools by creating better ones in Harlem. She is testing a theory of politics. Three years ago, after becoming a living legend in her tenure as head of the City Council education committee, holding drama-filled hearings that took on the mayor as strongly as the teachers union, Moskowitz tried to take her political career to the next level by running for Manhattan borough president. She lost in 2005 to Scott Stringer, a defeat that was in no small part thanks to the enemies she made as a tough committee head. But Moskowitz did not jump out of the limelight. In fact, the opposite: she still declares her intention to run for mayor one day. Whether she really will run for mayor, she is trying to prove a point: that it doesn't matter that she infuriated the teachers union and other labor groups. Moskowitz's arguement is that school improvement efforts, done well, can build a natural constituency all their own. If she succeeds, she will shake up what is permitted in the politics of running schools.
August 4, 2008
New charter schools on the way…
A $16.6 million federal grant will fund the development and support of new charter schools in New York State, the US Department of Education announced in July. The grant, from the Department's Charter School Program, will be used primarily to create and support secondary-level charter schools. Today is the postmark deadline for the current round of applications for the planning and implementation of new charter schools. Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein have long pushed for the creation of more charter schools, successfully convincing the state legislature to increase the number of charters granted from 100 to 200 in April, 2007. Half of the new charters are reserved for New York City. Even that limit may be short-lived; Governor Paterson reportedly told members of the Alliance for School Choice advocacy group that he supports lifting the cap on charters altogether. Approximately 18,000 students attend New York City's 60 charter schools, with thousands more students on waiting lists, according to the DOE. In response to this demand, eighteen new charter schools will open across the city this fall, with seven in the Bronx, five in Brooklyn, five in Manhattan, and one in Queens. The schools have a wide variety of institutional partners, including Victory Schools, adding two new charters to their six existing schools throughout the city, and the Success Charter Network, expanding from one to four schools in Harlem. The new charters, once they reach full capacity, will include six elementary schools, seven combined elementary-middle schools, one combined middle-high school, two high schools, and two K-12 schools. Most existing New York City charter schools serve elementary and middle school students.
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