Thursday, May 8, 2008

Charter schools: the billionaire's boys club?

There were public hearings last night about the proposed move of the PAVE charter school into the building of PS 15 in Red Hook, the Patrick Daly school – where there is much parent and staff opposition to the move, including Daly’s widow herself, who justifiably fear an increase in class sizes and a loss of cluster rooms as a result.

Emily Brown, a parent at PS 15 was told by DOE to stop blogging about the controversial move until after the hearings. Today in her blog, she describes how a bunch of people showed up last night with PAVE tee shirts, some of whom are really operators of other NYC charter schools.

Meanwhile, I’ve learned a little about the background of the charter school’s founder, Spencer Robertson. According to his wedding announcement in the NY Times, Spencer is a former program officer at the Tiger Foundation, founded by his father, the hedge-fund manager Julian Robertson. Julian Robertson’s current wealth is estimated to exceed $3 billion. (That’s Spencer on the right of the photo above, with his brothers and his mom, Josie.)

According to the PAVE charter school application,

In Year One PAVE anticipates total revenues of $1,780,819 and expenses of $1,481,626. The anticipated Year one surplus is $289,193.

· During the Start-Up phase and Year One, PAVE anticipates receipt of non per-pupil revenues from the Walton Family Foundation ($250,000), the City of New York ($124,408), Federal Charter School Program, Grant ($150,000), and fundraising/board contributions ($150,000).

· There are no loans associated with the Year One budget.

· PAVE anticipates being located in a New York City Department of Education building. The Lead Applicant is engaged in conversations with the New York City Department of Education to secure such a space.

· The School has provided a contingency plan and budget for securing a facility over the term of the charter. If space in a Department of Education building is not a viable option, PAVE has identified a 20,000 square foot facility to lease located in the target community. The applicant asserts the potential value of the site includes: proximity to public transportation, public parks and playing fields. The proposed facility is also newly constructed.

So why doesn’t Joel Klein and others at DOE encourage Robertson to lease this facility, when he clearly can afford it, rather than give him valuable space for free in the PS 15 building?

I guess it’s for the same reason they insist on giving away precious public school space to Courtney Ross, the billionaire widow of Steve Ross, for her charter school, in the middle of one of the most crowded school districts in the entire city. Just because they can.

12 comments:

Socrates said...

Why should charter schools, who get less money per student than DOE schools do, have to pay rent when the DOE schools don't? Why should money that could go to teacher salaries go to rent, especially when there is space available in NYC DOE schools? Carrying a surplus is sound fiscal practice; it doesn't mean that there is money lying around for rent.

Leonie Haimson said...

The Robertson clan could clearly afford to pay the rent on a new building for the charter school-- as the application makes clear; rather than crammed into an existing public school building where it will disadvantage the students already there. Why not leverage the resources available from the private sector? I thought that this was one of the goals of this administration.

Socrates said...

And this administration has certainly raised tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars in private philanthropy.

You can't hold a school accountable for results and not give them a building in which to get those results. The students in a charter school come from the district, so there is space available in that district.

Leonie Haimson said...

You can't hold a school accountable for results and not give them a building? Says who? All private schools have to be accredited. Does the city have to give each of them buildings? This is a ridiculous statement.

meanwhile, the Ross charter school is going into a building in one of the most overcrowded areas of District 2 -- meanwhile only 6% of the students are from D2.

Socrates said...

The city doesn't hold private schools accountable for results. It holds district and charter schools accountable, and as such it should provide them with buildings. They are both forms of PUBLIC schools. Public schools should get public buildings.

Leonie Haimson said...

Exactly. Public schools should get public buildings; and they haven't been under this administration. Don't you read the newspapers?

Instead, the policies of this administration have caused more overcrowding not less. And charter schools are a big piece of the problem.

Leonie Haimson said...

Exactly. Public schools should get public buildings; and they haven't been under this administration. Don't you read the newspapers?

Instead, the policies of this administration have caused more overcrowding not less. And charter schools are a big piece of the problem.

Anonymous said...

Charter schools are popular because they were made to circumvent union rules. Already, many teachers working in these schools have been fired for protesting actions against their administrations.
Bloomberg and Klein are out to break the UFT. Unfortunately, they have the perfect foil in Randi Weingarten. She agreed to give back so much in the 2005 contract. This was devastating as so many of the items will never be gotten back. Shame.
Zolly.

Anonymous said...

Zolly says:
It is time for Ms. Haimson, Donna Lieberman, Randi Weingarten, the CSA president, Kathleen Grimm, Joel Klein and so many others to return to the classroom.
It is absolutely ludicrous that those who constantly criticize our schools never spent a day in the classroom as a teacher, or were able to get out of the classroom by political pull.
It is so easy to criticize pedagogues.
Zolly.

Socrates said...

Hah! The UFT fired someone working in their own UNIONIZED charter school!

Charters are public schools. They deserve public school space just as much as the district schools do. Squatters' rights should not apply.

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