Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tory Frye: Why the application to authorize Emily Kim's Zeta charter school should be rejected by SUNY

Please send in your own comments to SUNY no later than 6 PM TODAY, Sept. 13, 2017, to charters@SUNY.edu in opposition to Emily Kim, the former lead attorney for Success Academy starting her own charter school.  Below is the letter by Tory Frye, parent and CEC member in District 6.

CEC6 Testimony on ZETA Charter School application

This testimony is regarding the proposal to site a new charter school, Zeta, in District 6. District 6 is a community school district with approximately 23,000 students, many of whom are English Language Learner and/or have special education needs. In fact, nearly 30% (27.7% to be exact) of our students are learning English and 20% (18.5%) have special needs, according to the most recent data published by the DOE.  The majority (85%) of our families are Latino or Hispanic.
Currently, our D6 schools are both overcrowded and underfunded. The average K-3 class size for our District is 23; for 4-8 it is 25; these are well over the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) goals of 20 students per class in grades K-3 and 23 per class in grades 4-8. Official utilization at twelve of our most crowded schools range from 90 to 149% (PS/IS 187). The overall utilization rate for elementary schools is 105%.
Today, as an elected representative serving on the District Six Community Education Council (CEC6), I testify on behalf of D6 public school parents. We are opposed to the siting of a new charter school in our district, as it represents one of the key strategies of the Trump/DeVos privatization of public education effort. It is a clear appropriation of tax payer resources by privately owned and operated, corporate charter schools (and subsequent annexation of public school space) that do not and will not equitably serve our community’s children. Further, they employ instructional practices that will not produce critical, well-educated citizens. Finally, they employ labor practices that that guarantee high levels of teacher turnover, low levels of highly experienced master teachers and are on the whole unsustainable over time.
On May 15 2014, CEC6 passed a resolution against supporting charter schools at the expense of public schools.  That is the official position of CEC6, the body elected to represent parents and families in the district.
We testify today to reiterate the position that by taking space and resources from NYC public school students, the proliferation of charters further limit public schools’ ability to provide the sound basic education, which is our children’s state constitutional right – a right that has been violated for years now and takes us further down the road to privatization. We see that in states where charters are supported in cutting off resources to true public schools, billions are lost by public school children. For example, in Michigan, the home state of Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, nearly $1 billion of public education dollars have been drained each year from Michigan public schools. This siphoning of funds by charters has resulted not in educational gains but in Michigan making no progress in the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), a national, longitudinal assessment. That a key goal of many charter school donors and supporters is the privatization of public education is supported by numerous news articles and investment strategy notes.  The fact is that public education as a 700 billion to one trillion dollar industry. 
Our D6 public schools cannot afford to have scant resources diverted. NYC public school budgets have been cut by over 14% since 2007; we simply cannot afford to lose another dollar to charter schools that do not serve our students’ needs, reject and eject special needs students, use educationally unsound approaches for English Language Learners, propose to co-locate against the wills of our existing public schools and treat our community with disrespect by failing to engage with us authentically.
We base these statements on the documentation below, which gives lie to the “success” of so many charter chains, like the one from which “Zeta” emerged.
  • NYC charter schools enroll many fewer special needs and English Language Learner students than NYC public schools, as documented in the State Report Cards and in NYC Department of Education’s data.  In a recently published analysis, we see that just 7% of students at charters in NYC were English Language Learner students, as compared to 14.4% in true or “traditional” NYC public schools. Similarly, just 14.7% of students at charters in NYC have special needs, as compared to 21.4% in true or “traditional” NYC public schools. At Harlem Success 1-3, where the proposed school leader of “Zeta” was trained, in recent years the percent of students with disabilities ranged from 12.6 -13%, the percentage of ELL students ranged from 4.1-7.1%, and the economic need index averaged .69 – far below other nearby schools. The average public school in NYC serves fifteen times the concentration of highest need special education students compared to Success Academy charters.
  • In addition to under-enrolling students with special needs and learning English, who often underperform as compared to their peers on state standardized tests, charters lose their students at an alarming rate. Again, using publicly available data for analysis, we see that in 2007 Success Academy Harlem I enrolled 73 students in the first grade. Today, as they enter the 11th grade, this class now contains just 18 students.  Where do these students go and why do they leave? 

  • The Independent Budget Office (IBO) has found that NYC charters have higher levels of attrition for students with disabilities. In recent years, many documented stories of children with special needs being pushed out and/or illegally suspended from NYC charter schools, without due process, have been published. Some charters have suspension rates two to three times that in the surrounding district schools.  
  •  According to DOE discipline code, students in NYC public schools can only be expelled if they are in general education classes, and have turned 17 prior to the beginning of the school year. Yet the SUNY charter Institution notes in a renewal document for Harlem Success 2 that the “implementation of the expulsions does not align with stated policy language,” though it did not reveal how many students were expelled.  As to Success Academy suspensions, the Institute writes, “It was unclear that live instruction was consistently provided in accordance with New York’s compulsory education law.” 
  •  Charter schools siphon resources from traditional public schools. Currently the DOE budget for charters surpassed $2 billion per year. According to state law, if charters are not given space in public school buildings, the city must provide funds for them to rent their own space, which further diminishes the resources available to our local public schools.
  •  According to the IBO, the two thirds of charter school students in co-located buildings receive more in per pupil funding than public school students, when their free space and services are taken into account. Since the new requirement that NYC provide free space for every new charter, these inequities have grown even worse. 
We have examined the applications that Zeta put together and pull out just a few areas that cause special concern.

First, Zeta proposes to co-locate their charter school with an existing public school (see page 164). Our district has had numerous, negative experiences with co-locations and CEC6 has also passed a resolution opposing further co-locations in the district. Specifically, the application states:

“As mentioned in Response 16(a) above, we will promptly be submitting to the NYC DOE our written requests that the DOE co-locate the two proposed schools in CSDs 6 (Upper Manhattan) and 12 (Central Bronx), respectively. We have reviewed the DOE’s UnderUtilized Space Memorandum for the 2017-2018 School Year As of February 23, 2017. The Under-Utilized Space memorandum lists 320 significantly underutilized DOE public school buildings, 19 of which are located in CSDs 6 and 12. Accordingly, we are optimistic that the DOE will be able to co-locate our two schools within the requested CSDs.”

Second, Zeta proposes to educate English Language Learners using an “immersion” method that amounts to all instruction being in English (p. 300). Although they cite various sources to support this, which I must note focus on early childhood education and not K-5 education, recent syntheses of the evidence on educating primary school level children who are learning English suggests that dual language or bilingual education, which encourages fluency in both the primary language and English. 

Third, the charter application does not indicate that a robust, culturally-grounded or well-rounded education will be generated. The emphasis is on performing well on standardized assessments and relegates the arts and languages to “enrichment” (p. 24) 

Fourth, despite statements about community outreach, very little actually occurred in District Six and much of that either at the end of very busy school year or over the summer. Further, no elected officials in our district, other than the Independent Democrat Caucus state representative, state Senator Alcantara, wrote a letter of support.  

Fifth, the application emphasizes that great need for schools with students who perform well on standardized tests and also on the need for integrated schools. Our district is predominately Hispanic and/or Latino and low or lower income. Increasing diversity and deconcentrating various forms of capital at a small number of specific schools is a goal for District Six, as is increasing the number of dual language schools. The Zeta school, however, cannot likely increase diversity without enrolling student who do not live in the district. This suggests that the school both will not serve D6 students and will increase the number of private vehicles on the streets surrounding the building where the school is co-located, a situation similar to the traffic nightmare that currently characterizes the SACS located at the Mother Cabrini site in Washington Heights.

Sixth, Zeta states that there is a great need for their school based on wait lists for other charter schools in our district.  Yet, there are waitlists for nearly every school in our district! Families apply to multiple schools as part of Kindergarten Connect; the wait lists are meaningless

Seventh, the applicant acknowledges, as described above, that they will in fact siphon funds and resources away from D6 students. In the application, they estimate that at scale they will reduce our district budget by .03% or about 1.5 million dollars per year. They state in their application on page 18:
“In school year 2015-16, CSD 6 had an operating budget of $559,874,764.44 In CSD 12, the 2015-16 operating budget was $573,724,715.45 Therefore, the total fiscal impact of the school located in CSD 6 would be approximately .01% of the district’s projected operating budget in the first year the school would offer instruction, and approximately .028% in the fifth year of instruction. The total fiscal impact of the school located in CSD 12 would be approximately .01% of the district’s projected operating budget in the first year the school would offer instruction, and approximately .028% in the fifth year of instruction. Based on these percentages, the projected fiscal impact of the proposed schools on public schools in New York City is not expected to be significant.”

This calculation suggests that they either do not intend to educate current D6 students or that they are very much underestimating the negative financial impact on the district.

Finally, at the hearing to collect public comment, which was held on September 11 at 6PM at PS 5, a date, time and location which combined to make it very difficult for our D6 parents to attend, the proposed school leader, Ms. Emily Kim, a lawyer by training and former SACS lead counsel, failed to arrange for interpretation and in fact made clear statement on video that she did not have any legal obligation to do so. She further stated that she would consider doing so in the future. This makes it very clear that her “extensive research” into the district was superficial and not grounded in the reality of our families lives, where so many speak Spanish only and are effectively excluded when proceedings are conducted in English only.

Our district does not need another charter school that will only divert funds from our existing schools. We need more resources and support for the families and schools that are working to educate the children of the district.

Thank you.
Tory Frye, elected parent representative CEC6

Tory (Victoria) Frye


Anonymous said...

We don't want Zeta Charte to be approved.

Olivia Anderson said...

You say you want to reiterate the position "that by taking space and resources from NYC public students, the proliferation of charters further limit public schools’ ability to provide the sound basic education." In New York, all charter schools are public schools. So to say that these charter schools are taking space and resources from NYC public students is false. Charter school students are public students and they have the same rights as students who are attending public schools that are not charters. I also find it extraordinarily sad that your goal is to have students receive a "sound basic education." I would hope nothing less of excellence would be driving any decision regarding education for children.

You also mention how D6 is overcrowded and class sizes exceed the CFE goals of 20 students per class in grades K-3 and 23 per class in grades 4-8. How would adding a school to this district make this problem worse exactly?

I also noticed that you commented on the FB page "District 6 Parents," stating that: "The story of SACS is a complicated one. Young teachers of color are underrepresented and their labor practices are not sustainable. The application for ZETA says the work week is 47 hours in the contract. There will always be dedicated and talented teachers in every type of school; the key is to see the patterns and understand the macro-level interests that are being served, even while many people are giving and getting an education."

If you are going to critique these charter schools, would you mind please being explicit and actually explaining what macro-level interests you are referring to?

Isabel O'Connor said...

My friend's son was also a Success Academy student and had to deal with the administration and Emily Kim on numerous occasion. I am writing as a concerned friend and parent. She is known as a "bully" among Success parents who have either been directly affected or been a witness to how she handles delicate or "difficult" situations.

I have not personally met her, but I know she caused a lot of pain for my friend's family. From what I understand is that what you see is not what you get. She comes across as articulate and calm, but if you express the need for more help on behalf of your child who may be struggling under the circumstance, she will side swipe and bully you. She's also a lawyer so this added layer is used to intimidate people and undermine the right thing to do.

I am not certain that Emily Kim has the emotional intelligence to lead a charter school and wonder if she is starting her own due to a falling out or retaliation of sorts against the CEO of Success Academy. The motive is important to understand to see what future children will be subject to.