Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Parents and advocates comment on today's charter school march
For immediate release: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Arthur Z. Schwartz, Advocates for Justice: firstname.lastname@example.org; 917- 923-8136
Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters: email@example.com ; 917-435-9329
Sam Pirozollo, NYC Parents Union: firstname.lastname@example.org ; 917-533-3437
Today, Eva Moskowitz and other charter school operators have closed their schools and are holding a political rally of students, parents and teachers, to try to pressure Bill de Blasio, Democratic candidate and frontrunner for Mayor, to go back on his campaign pledge that if elected, he will call for a moratorium on charter co-locations and charge charter schools rent. What she and others in the charter lobby have ignored is that while Section 2853(4)(c) of the NY State Education Law allows districts to lease public school “buildings and grounds” to charters and to “contract for the operation and maintenance thereof,” it also requires that “any such contract shall provide such services or facilities at cost.”
Arthur Schwartz, attorney with Advocates for Justice, who first filed a lawsuit on behalf of public school and charter school parents on this issue in 2011, says: “New York State Education Law requires that when a district provides space or services to a charter school it shall do so at cost. Yet the DOE provides free space and services for more than 100 co-located charter schools. Using figures from the NYC Independent Budget Office, we estimate that the space and services these charter schools currently receive is worth more than $100 million a year. A large chunk of that unfair subsidy goes to Success charters, which operates 22 schools across New York City, all of them co-located, with plans for seven more schools in 2014. Yet Success had an operating surplus of more than $23 million in 2012, and probably enjoys an even larger surplus this year.”
“We have now been instructed by Justice Barbara Jaffe to take the issue to the State Education Commissioner. But in light of a recent ruling in a related case, we are asking the judge to reconsider. If she sends us to the Commissioner again we will appeal, in time to face off with a new Mayor. Success Charter Schools, which has organized the upcoming rally, is trying to exert political muscle. It will not succeed, in the public arena or in the courts. That $100 million will go back to our public schools, starved for resources, and hopefully allow them to reduce class sizes, which are now the largest in 15 years.”
"This 'protest march' is yet another example of separate and unequal treatment afforded to charters, especially Eva Moskowitz's Success Charters," says Noah Gotbaum, a public school parent of three and a Vice President of Community Education Council District 3 on the Upper West Side and Harlem. "Success claims its schools are public, but what other public school could close their doors and demand that its parents and students attend a political rally? What other public school could sue the State Comptroller to avoid the transparency of a state audit? And what other public school could use our tax dollars to pay its CEO almost $500,000 per year?"
As Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters points out, “A 2011 study from the Independent Budget Office showed that co-located charters in NYC receive more in public dollars per student than regular public schools, and city spending on charters is expected to exceed one billion dollars next year. A report released by the charter lobby attempts to contradict the IBO analysis but has little credibility, especially since its author, Harry Wilson, is personally close to many in the charter school movement , according to Whitney Tilson, prominent board member of Democrats for Education Reform. Indeed, Wilson promised not to 'harass' charters by auditing their books when he ran for NY State Comptroller in 2010.”
Karen Sprowal, whose own son was pushed out of a Success charter in Kindergarten, observes: “Over the last few months we have learned of even more cases of troubling disciplinary and push-out policies in charter schools, in a series of investigative reports from Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News. There needs to be an immediate moratorium on expanding charters as well as co-locations, so that these abusive and potentially illegal practices can be carefully examined by authorities before any new charters are allowed to open in New York City.”
Mona Davids, President, NYC Parents Union, said: "As a former charter parent who spearheaded the charter reforms in 2010, I'm disgusted that Eva Moskowitz and other charter leaders are using parents and students as political pawns while continuing to violate the law by not serving their fair share of students with disabilities and English Language Learners, by not establishing Parent Associations and by refusing to be audited by the State Comptroller. This march is an abuse of power by Eva Moskowitz and other charter leaders because no public school would be allowed to shut down for an entire morning to have their students engage in political activities."
According to Sam Pirozzolo, president of the Community Education Council in District 31, Staten Island: “I find it ironic that Ms. Moskowitz, a leader who has been given the task of eliminating the achievement gap has done little more than increase the divide between the haves and have nots. It is unfortunate that Eva Moskowitz has chosen to intimidate mayoral candidates by closing her schools for a day. She is hiding behind parents and children for the sake of profits and a paycheck. Since their inception, charter schools have been creaming only the best students from our public schools.”