A particularly destructive and unjustified proposal is on the PEP agenda for tomorrow night, Monday May 1: to evict the students at the transfer school Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School from their home of many years to make way for the Young Women's Leadership School (TYWLS) of E. Harlem. See the article about this heart-breaking proposal in the Daily News
Instead, the students of West Side High school, many of them under-credited and overage and already at high risk of dropping out, will be displaced to be housed at the current building of TYWLS -- where they will lose their wrap-around services, their GED program, and LYFE center-- a day care center for their young children. None of these programs or services are likely to be needed or utilized by the relatively-high achieving students at TYWLS .
What's especially striking is how the Educational Impact Statement required by state law fails to discuss any of the profound losses that will be suffered by West Side students if this move is approved by the PEP, in contravention to state law. These glaring deficiencies are similar to those exhibited by the EIS's that purport to describe the effects of the co-locations of two Success charter schools, in Brooklyn and Queens, as pointed out by the lawsuit filed last month to block them. In those cases, the EIS's omit any mention of how public school students in the existing schools will lose their science lab, their rooms for special education services, and space to lower class size to the levels set forth in the new state law, if these charter schools are allowed to move into their buildings.
Every elected official that represents the neighborhood in which the West Side transfer school is located from the Manhattan Borough President on down has urged the Chancellor not go forward with this proposal. Here is the letter written by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams to the Chancellor. An especially impassioned champion of the school has been Council Member Gale Brewer, who pleaded to Chancellor Banks that the building "needs to be filled
with students who need the resources it offers.” And yet none of their entreaties seem to have moved the determination of the Chancellor or the Mayor to go forward with this proposal. One wonders why.
Some clues may be found in the fact that TYWLS is a chain of single-sex girl schools for grades 6-12, founded by Ann Tisch, a member of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in NYC. Ann's sister-in-law, Merryl Tisch is the former Board of Regents chancellor and now the SUNY board chair; her niece is Jessica Tisch, the current Sanitation Commissioner. Andrew Tisch, her husband, is a billionaire and the co-chair of Loews Corporation. Together with his brother, James S. Tisch, and cousin, Jonathan Tisch, he runs a holding company involved in hotels, oil, and insurance companies. From 1990 to 1995, he was CEO of Lorillard Tobacco Company, and in that capacity testified before Congress that "nicotine is not addictive," and that he didn't believe that smoking causes cancer. He currently heads the board of the secretive and controversial Police Foundation, which has been called the "Piggybank of the NYPD."
Ann Tisch and her wealthy friends have given millions to the Student Leadership Network, the non-profit that subsidizes her chain of schools, to hire college counselors, trips, and other opportunities for their students. The network recently received $7 million from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. An investigation by Liz Rosenberg at NYC News service found that from 2006 to 2018, the Tisch Foundation gave nearly $50,000 to the Eagle Academy Foundation, which supports the single-sex chain of schools for boys started by Chancellor Banks.
Moreover, this year, the Student Leadership Network paid $12,000 to one of the top lobbyists in the city, Kasirer LLC to lobby Banks and other city officials. Further digging by Daniel Alicea under his twitter handle Educators of NYC reveals that they have spent over $120,000 on lobbying since 2021. A look at NYC lobbying reports shows the Network has paid Kasirer $194,000 for lobbying since 2020. As a result, they have received $250,000 in NYC Council discretionary funding every year since at least 2016. (I couldn't find any discretionary funding for West Side High School.)
As Diane Ravitch points out, the Network could easily use some of the $7 million given them by Mackensie Scott to obtain a new home for TYWLS, rather than force the West Side students out of their home. Yet according to a reliable source, when alternative sites were recently proposed to the Chancellor for TYWLS, including the buildings of a nearby charter school that is closing and/or several closing parochial schools, he rejected these options to say that these buildings may be needed to house some of the 14 zombie charter schools that Governor Hochul has now insisted be authorized as part of the state budget, whose rent will be paid for at public expense.
So this is the Darwinian universe that NYC students are subjected to. Schools with wealthy backers, whether charter or public, can afford to spend thousands of dollars to extract more in government funding, further widening the opportunities and resources offered their students.
Be sure to listen to tonight's Talk out of School show with Daniel Alicea on WBAI.org at 7 PM EST, which will feature the voices of West Side High School community, fighting to retain their home. Tomorrow's PEP meeting at which their fate will be determined starts at 6 PM. If you want to speak at the meeting, you should sign up starting at 5:30 PM at https://www.learndoe.org/pep/may01/.