Monday, March 9, 2009

Is This the Real Face of NYC School Policy?

On April 2, 2008, the NY Daily News gave its Be Our Guest editorial slot to Kyesha Bennett, a founding member of Harlem Parents United (HPU) and mother of a student at Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy Charter School. Ms. Bennett’s article was titled, not surprisingly, “NY Parents Must Unite to Demand Better School Choices,” and in her story, she alluded to her mother helping her get into P.S. 87 on the Upper West Side.

On February 26, 2009, Errol Louis wrote his Daily News editorial column that was nothing less than free advertising for the Harlem Education Fair held on Saturday, February 28 and organized by Harlem Parents United (HPU). Ms. Sabrina Williams is quoted extensively in his article and is identified as a co-founder of HPU.

Last Saturday, March 7, the Daily News has once again turned over its editorial page to HPU, this time to Ms. Natasha Shannon, mother of two children at Harlem Success Academy and a founding member of HPU. And her story begins just like Kyesha Bennett’s, harkening back to the days when her mother was faced with her daughter’s public elementary school (non-)choice. Is anyone out there starting to see a pattern in all this?

As with everything that comes from the DOE these days, Ms. Shannon’s editorial submission is filled with false choices. Parents don’t want a voice in school policy, she argues, they just want a choice of schools. In fact, giving parents a voice “might actually do more harm than good for me and my daughters.” (Try telling THAT to the parents of every suburban school district within 50 miles!!!!). Since when (and for whom) are parental voice and good schools mutually exclusive? After the country just rediscovered its political voice by electing Barack Obama after eight nightmarish years of Republican rule, isn't this rather an odd position to take, just to surrender our voice and trust unquestioningly in the benevolence of our billionaire leaders?

Ms. Shannon continues. “[The parents who want to make policy] may want resources spent on decreasing class size - when I may think money should be spent on improving teacher quality. Or the parents on a Community Education Council may not think a public charter school should be sited in a failing zone school - when to me and my neighbors, that's a saving grace.” Strangely close to DOE-speak, and two more false dichotomies, only to be topped by this one. “I don't want my girls to be assigned to a failing zone school, and then be told by so-called elected parent representatives that I should be happy with it,” Ms. Shannon opines. I have yet to meet an “elected parent representative” who would think such a thing, let alone say it.

Ms. Shannon continued with self-congratulatory props for last Saturday’s Harlem Education Fair. A quick Internet check (I wasn’t there) reveals that the fair was a charter school/Catholic school advertising orgy attended by a modest handful of public schools (9 out of 51 by my count, including the highly selective Hunter College HS and Columbia [University] Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering - see list below).

Reportedly, Joel Klein was present at the Fair. Did anyone think to excoriate him for leaving the state of public schools in Harlem (as elsewhere) such that parents like Ms. Shannon and Ms. Bennett are fleeing in droves? Why should public school parents anywhere in NYC have to be lottery winners to get their children into a good school? Isn't the rush for charter schools in Harlem a tacit vote that the Klein Chancellorship has failed for the public schools for which he was made responsible? Is it surprising that those parents are reading the too obvious hand-writing on the school walls, seeing that the DOE under Chancellor Klein has abandoned the Harlem public schools in favor of “charterizing” the entire community? Is it surprising that they are following the money and resources to schools like Ms. Moskowitz’s?

Of course, the dark presence behind all of this is Ms. Moskowitz herself, the prime beneficiary of the Harlem charter school movement. It’s no coincidence that Ms. Moskowitz, (a former Chair of the City Council’s Education Committee who now appears bent on dismantling public education for her own profit) is behind Harlem Parents United. They are not only a peculiar version of her school’s PTA, she helped organize the group according to the New York Times! Thus, it hardly seems coincidental that prime guest editorial space in the Daily News (a huge mayoral control and charter school backer) is being granted to HPU and Harlem Success Academy parents. Even in elementary school, we learn that one hand washes the other.

The Daily News is so completely in the tank with the entire Bloomberg/Klein school agenda, they’re now routinely printing DOE propaganda under the guise of "independent" parent submissions, acting as an unpaid arm of the DOE public relations machine.

List of schools advertised as attending the Harlem Education Fair (downloadable as an Excel file from Inside Schools:

All Saints School, Amber Charter School, Annunciation School, Ascension School, Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering, Corpus Christi School, Cristo Rey High School, Democracy Prep Charter School, DREAM Charter School, Future Leaders Institute Charter School, Harbor Science & Arts Charter School, Harlem Academy, Harlem Children's Zone Promise Academy I Charter Elementary School, Harlem Children's Zone Promise Academy II Charter Elementary School, Harlem Day Charter School, Harlem Link Charter School, Harlem Succes Academy Charter School, Harlem Success Academy 2 Charter School, Harlem Success Academy 3 Charter School, Harlem Success Academy 4 Charter School, Harlem Village Academy Charter School, Harlem Village Academy Leadership Charter School, Hunter College High School, Incarnation School, Isaac Newton Middle School for Math & Science, JHS 13 Central Park East Middle School, KIPP Infinity Charter School, KIPP S.T.A.R. College Prep Charter School, Mount Carmel-Holy Rosary School, New Heights Academy Charter School, New York Center for Autism Charter School, Opportunity Charter School, Our Lady of Lourdes School, Our Lady Queen of Angels School, PS 125, PS 242M Gwendolyn Powell Brown Computer School, PS 36, PS 46 The Tappan School, PS 76 A. Philip Randolph School, Rice High School, Sisulu Walker Charter School, St. Aloysius School, St. Ann School, St. Charles Borromeo Elementary School, St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's, St. HOPE Leadership Academy Charter School, St. Joseph of the Holy Family, St. Mark the Evangelist School, St. Paul School, The Cathedral School, The Urban Assembly Institute for New Technologies


Anonymous said...

Thousands of parents invest in their children's futures by coming out to find a school for their child and this is all you have to say? Isn't this exactly what middle class families do when they move to Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, the West Village, Westchester, etc? They exercise their right to choose by renting/buying in a community that has good schools. They look, they study, the ponder, they mull and they CHOOSE. Generations have been left behind and now some good options FINALLY crop up in Harlem and this website devoted to NYC school parents has nothing positive to say? "A charter school / catholic school advertising orgy?" is all you have to say to a community that has been provided with subpar schools for generation?

Have you even been to these schools? Have a walk around a charter school then visit the DOE school it shares space with. Then blog about which one you would have sent your kid to, if you had the choice.

FInally, you lament the fact that only nine of the 51 schools are public schools but you forget, charter schools ARE public schools!

Steve Koss said...

Remarkably, by disagreeing, you've managed to reaffirm one of the points in my posting -- how the rush to charter schools in Harlem is actually an indictment of Klein's stewardship of the traditional public schools. You've also simultaneously managed to ignore most of the major points in what I wrote (concerning the Daily News and their repeated offering of public media space to a coterie of charter school parents affiliated with one particular school that just happens to be operated by Ms. Moskowitz).

As for the nine public schools who attended the Education Fair (should I call them UFT schools to make you happy?), my point was that they were underrepresented while Catholic, private, and charter schools were overwhelmingly present in an event organized and run by charter school parents under the aegis of Ms. Moskowitz. If Chancellor Klein was truly doing his job, he would be actively supporting all schools including the traditional (UFT) ones, not just showing up to throw his support behind the charter school movement (does he EVER show up at the annual Brooklyn Tech High School Fair, for example?) at the expense of the schools he was tasked with nourishing and improving.

Falsely rephrasing my posting into opposition to school choice and then opposing the very argument you've created in my name is a poor form of argumentation, typical of Fox News talking heads (O'Reilly, Hannity, et. al.) and Rush Limbaugh. When I want to school, this was called a red herring and taught as a fallacy of argumentation along with slippery slopes, ad hominem attacks, and the like.

Ah well, I guess rational debate is just another one of our lost arts. Nobody has time for that because we're too busy teaching kids to pass standardized tests.

Steve Koss said...

By my count, there are 65 non-charter public schools in Disticts 4 and 5 combined, and that does not include schools in District 3 above (say) 96th Street, any and all of which could/should have been at the Harlem Education Fair. All told, perhaps 75 schools, of which eight were present (I'm not counting Hunter College HS as a D3, D4, or D5 school).

Does THAT represent choice? Did Chancellor Klein encourage those schools to attend? Did they even know about the event? If we still had real district superintendents, would those individuals have helped increase the turnout among traditional public schools? Does anyone at the DOE really care, or does this end result serve their goals much better?

Anonymous said...

A quick search of "Harlem" reveals not a single positive entry about charter schools in Harlem on this blog, just more of these same about how evil Eva Moskowitz and the current administration are.

I'll ask again: Have you ever been to these schools? By these I mean charter schools in Harlem? And the UFT schools (I think "zoned public schools" is the most accurate description) they share space with? You write as if they were good before big bad Klein and Bloomberg came around. What they have done is shaken up the system to say "Wake UP! You can't go on failing kids year after year after year!" They have not abandoned these schools, they have monitored and supported and in some cases closed the ones that are unable to improve.

Reading through this blog and seeing your countdown to the end of the current administration you'd think there was something wonderful that was lost. Was there a chancellor whose policies you admired? Who was it that created good schools in poor neighborhoods? Yes we need to fight for good zoned schools, but to act as if charter schools are causing zoned schools to fail is just inaccurate.

Change has come to Harlem, please go see it.

Unknown said...

Parents should have options when it comes to choosing a quality school for their children. Under Bloomberg, a considerable number of new schools have opened and failing schools are closing their doors.

While parents need to have a voice within the system, what makes you think they won't disagree about what is best for their children? Consider PS 173 in Washington Heights. The parents and community launched a protest when they became aware that a high school for educationally troubled students would be housed in their facility. A new location for the troubled students is now being reconsidered. How do you think the parents of these teens feel about that?

Finally, our students, the real measure of whether or not this law is working, are raising their test scores and graduating in larger numbers.

Anonymous said...

Charter's okay - just pay your own way. Leave public money alone. You want choice, you got it. Just pay for it and stop squeezing out all the "rest" of the children in NYC. And, don't let your kids grow up to be teachers...they'll be paid a non-competitive salary, have no insurance, no pension for their years of hard work, and they'll beworking 70 "in school" hours per week, 12 months a year. If Klein and Bloomberg can't help "all", then they are failures. Next batter!

Leonie Haimson said...

I'd like some evidence for this claim: "They have not abandoned these schools, they have monitored and supported and in some cases closed the ones that are unable to improve." where is the evidence that they have supported our regular public schools in any meaningful way? I don't see it. Chancellor Crew put many of the failing schools in a new district called the Chancellor's district, where they reduced class size and provided a longer school day. He turned around many of these schools. In contrast, Joel klein closed he Chancellor's district and took out these programs. He also imposed a uniform curriculum that many think is deleterious.

See the example of PS 241, which we wrote about on the blog -- that was supported by a foundation which provided extras as well as phonics based reading instruction.

When Klein came to power, he forbid schools to use a phonics-based curriculum, so the foundation pulled out, and guess what! Now the DOE wants to close the school and replace it with one of Moskowitz' schools that uses phonics based learning -- which as a charter, is able to choose its own curriculum as well as cap enrollment and class sizes at whatever level they like.

If this is support, I guess I don't understanding the meaning of the word.