Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tonight's vote on charter expansion and co-locations; neither parent choice nor the free market at work

This evening the Panel for Educational Policy  -- or as it is sometimes called, the Panel of Eight [mayoral] Puppets -- will rubberstamp 23 new co-location proposals and two expansions, including many for charter schools that have not even been approved yet by the state.  
These proposals will uniformly disadvantage the children in the existing schools, cause even more overcrowding and larger classes, and push disabled students out of the spaces they need for special services.
Some of the examples have been described in newspaper accounts.  Here is how the severely disabled children in the Mickey Mantle School in PS 149 have already been affected by the co-location of Harlem Success Academy in their building, according to Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News:
Originally, these children had a “cafeteria, playground, library, and cluster rooms (for specialized activities).”  In 2006, when the charter school moved in, they lost their library and a bunch of classrooms.  The following year, according to a teacher,
“We lost our technology room, our music room, our art room and we had to start sharing the cafeteria, the gym and playground,” Manuell says.
Now she is “teaching theater at Mickey Mantle in a former office with no windows. A fellow teacher conducts four periods a week of gym in a regular classroom because so little time has been allotted in the main gym to the Mickey Mantle pupils”
Now DOE wants to give space to up to “375 middle-school pupils to Manuell’s school over the next several years. They will come from another Moskowitz school, Harlem Success 4.
As for the Mickey Mantle School, 20% of its enrollment will be cut and displaced elsewhere.  “Even with that reduction, officials concede the building may reach 130% of capacity.”
Of the 23 proposals to be voted on today, there are 21 co-location proposals and two expansions. Ten of the 23 co-location proposals will cause a building utilization rate of over 100% in the next few years, according to the DOE. 
As the DOE severely underestimates the amount of overcrowding in these buildings, one can assume that even more schools will lose their art rooms, libraries, science labs, and intervention spaces, and will suffer class size increases as a result. 
Some have speculated that the co-location of a District 75 school for disabled students contributed to an autistic student walking out of the building without supervision last week; this child is still missing. 
Yet none of these impacts are reflected in the DOE's Educational Impact statements required by law.
Thirty eight district public schools (excluding all the charters) are affected by these co-location proposals. Twenty two of the schools are majority or plurality Hispanic/Latino, fifteen are majority Black, and one is plurality Asian, I.S. 96 Seth Low.
Only one of the schools originally on the co-location list, I.S. 2 on Staten Island, is majority White. Coincidentally or not, this is the only co-location proposal rescinded last week by Chancellor Walcott.
Eight of the co-location proposals involve Success Academy Charter Schools and eight involve other charter schools.
There are other potential costs including substantial capital renovations. The co-location of Upper West Success elementary charter led to the DOE  creating an entirely new separate cafeteria for the school, which cost $500K and had to be matched by  funds provided to every other school in the building, totaling $3 Million in all.  Yet there was no mention of this expense in its EIS, nor is this potential cost mentioned in the EIS of tonight’s proposal to move another Success elementary charter into Murry Bergtraum High School, though one has to assume that the DOE will be asked to build a separate cafeteria for this school as well.
While the DOE claims they are only responding to parent choice, the Success Academy network spends millions on marketing and advertising to inflate their applications.  In 2009-2010, according to Juan Gonzalez, they spent “$1.6 million just for publicity and recruitment of new students… That means Moskowitz spent about $1,300 on marketing for every new enrollee.
Even so, the classes at Upper West Success were under-enrolled after it moved into the Brandeis HS building in 2011. This is from Noah Gotbaum, parent leader and CEC member in District 3: 
…we estimate that Eva spent over a million dollars on recruitment/marketing for Upper West Success alone in 2010/2011 school year.  According to Eva, and to SUNY, her charter authorizer, this effort generated a wait list of 1400 kids, on top of 188 lottery "winners".  
Yet according to DOE records, in 2011/2012 Upper West Success was only able to fill 164 of its authorized 188 Kindergarten and 1st grade seats (an estimated marketing cost of some $6000 per enrollee).
Why did/does she need to spend all that money?  Because the "huge" demand and "enormous" waiting lists claimed by Success, and by Citizens of the World, and by the charter lobby are, for the most part, fictitious.  Either that, or the screening out and cream-skimming of applicants by Eva and other charters is so great that out of 1400 on the waitlist they were unable to find 20 kids THEY would be willing to accept.
We asked Success Charter how this could be and didn't receive an answer.  Then we asked the DOE, and they directed us to SUNY.  SUNY then directed us to Success Charter's Board of Directors.  No response. So CEC3 FOILed for information on the lottery/matriculation/enrollment process.  
That was 3 years ago. We are still waiting.  
Similarly, Democracy Prep Charter in Harlem was forced to send mailers to try to recruit applicants as far south as Lower Manhattan, Girls Prep charter offered cash rewards this year to individuals who recruited more students to the school, and it was recently revealed that Citizens of the World charter is so under-enrolled that it may be closed, though it originally claimed great demand.
Moreover, it is also clear from the abundance of comments at public hearings that the vast majority of parents oppose these proposals – and these parents’ choices are being ignored.  Just check any of the Public comment analyses on the DOE webpage.  In many of these summaries, every single parent who spoke opposed the co-location, as well as representatives of the Community Education Councils and elected officials.
But these proposals were put forward not by parents or members of the community, but engineered by former Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg, who on Oct. 4 left the DOE to work for the Walton Foundation.  The Walton Foundation bills itself as the largest private supporter of charter school start-ups in the country.
Here is a chart showing the amount of funding the Success charters have received since 2009, according to the Keystone State Coalition, totaling $4.64 million dollars.
Success Charter Network
Success Charter Network
Success Charter Network
Success Charter Network 
 $ 60,000.00
Success Charter Network 

The fact that Sternberg devoted his last few months to enable this chain to expand in alignment with the goals of his future employer is an obvious conflict of interest.
To sum up, the expansion of charters and the DOE's granting them free space in our public school buildings is neither parental choice nor a free market at work.  Instead, these plans reflect the overriding preferences of the Bloomberg administration and privatizers to maximize and facilitate the corporate takeover of our public schools – even when it severely damages the safety and quality of education of our students, including the highest needs children in the system.

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