Friday, March 24, 2023

Council Education chair Rita Joseph and her colleagues urge Legislature -- don't raise the charter cap!

See letter below from Council Education Chair Rita Joseph and nine of her colleagues on the Council Education Committee, urging the leaders of the Legislature not to succumb to pressure from Governor  Hochul and the charter lobby to raise the cap on charters.  Below that is a press release with quotes from many education advocacy groups, including Class Size Matters.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that charter-loving billionaire and former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg has secretly been spending millions backing a new shadowy organization called "American Opportunity," run out of the Democratic Governor's Association, that is buying deceptive TV ads and sending mailers, urging people to contact their legislators to accept Hochul's budget, without mentioning the word "charter" since it might scare away those he is trying to lure into her camp.

Hochul and the charter lobby are pushing this proposal despite the fact that their enrollment is falling.  More than half of all NYC charter schools lost enrollment over the past three years, not including charters that opened or closed during that time; and 45%  lost enrollment this year, including the most aggressively expansionist Success Academy, down 7.7% despite spending over $13 million per year on marketing and recruitment.  

Success Academy is so desperate to recruit more students that according to an eyewitness account, they have hired people to hang out in playgrounds to hand out flyers and beg parents to enroll their children in their schools. 

We have a briefing on the history of the charter cap and why it should not be lifted; you can also send a message to your legislators here.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

My twitter spat with Core DeAngelis and Talk out of School podcast on the well-funded assault on our public schools

This morning I got into a twitter spat with Corey DeAngelis, the top voucher evangelist who, according to his bios, is currently a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a  senior fellow at the American Federation for Children, executive director at Educational Freedom Institute, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, a senior fellow at Reason Foundation, and a board member at Liberty Justice Center.  Phew!  No wonder his tweets sound like they were written by bots. 

Yet he consistently refused to answer my simple question:

Episode Notes

Videos of NYC rally on Feb. 3, 2023: elected officials and parent leaders explaining why they oppose raising the cap on charter schools​.  

Send a message​ to NY Governor and state legislators urging them not to raise the charter cap but require more accountability and transparency for the charter sector.

Class Size Matters NY state budget testimony, showing how Mayor Adams is planning to cut school budgets again next year despite an increase of $568 million in state Foundation Aid.

The Federalist, Two States Now Have Universal School Choice and Yours Could be Next

The Nation, Robbing From the Poor to Educate the Rich 

Peter Greene, Vouchers Are Not About School Choice. Here's How We Know.·    

Diane Ravitch, Charles Siler: a Former Privatizer Changes Sides  

Ed Week, Voucher Programs Gains Strength with Help from the Courts

 American Prospect, Will the Education Culture War Backfire on Republicans?

Subscribe to Network for Public Education newsletter at 

NPE Toolkit: School Privatization Explained 

NPE list of 76 state voucher bills

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Success Academy's aggressive expansion efforts despite falling enrollment, their questionable "waiting lists" and over $13 million per year spent on marketing

Success Academy internal marketing firm
The Success Academy Creative Agency

One of the political weapons that charter chains & their hypesters in the media like the NY Post repeat like a mantra to support the push to expand their schools and eliminate the NYC cap on charters is their dubious claim that there are thousands of kids on their waiting lists.  (E

For many reasons one should doubt the reality and relevance of these claims. As Chalkbeat points out, 58% of NYC charter schools lost enrollment over the past three years; and 45% lost enrollment in the last year. This includes the most aggressively expansionist charter chain in NYC, Success Academy, whose enrollment has fallen by 7.7% in the last year.

Moreover, as our charter school presentation and draft resolution explain, the claims of high demand and long waiting lists at charter schools are unconfirmed by any independent audits and likely include many duplicates. 

As to Success Academy, a research study revealed that only about 50 percent of the students who win the lottery to attend one of their schools choose to enroll, making the significant of what it means to be on one of their waiting lists even more dubious. 

In addition, the network was still desperately urging more families to apply to their schools through October of the current school year, revealing a shortage of students. They also recruit students outside the city for their charter schools, suggesting a lack of demand in NYC.

Perhaps one of Success' biggest problems in keeping their seats full is their high rates of attrition, with 75%  of students leaving from Kindergarten on; and about 50% of those students who even make it to high school departing before graduation, according to analyses done by Gary Rubinstein.  

In any case, in their determined effort to persuade as many families as possible to apply, whether or not they really intend to enroll, Success Academy has a whole team focused on recruitment. See this job posting for a "Scholar Recruiter" to join the "Scholar Recruitment Team," managed by the "Lead of Scholar Recruitment" and "reporting to a Senior Scholar Recruiter".: 

.... the Scholar Recruiter will execute field outreach programs and promotional activities in individually assigned New York City regional markets. A Scholar Recruiter will often be the first touchpoint to Success Academy for prospective families, making this team a critical contributor toward reaching our enrollment goals.

One of the many responsibilities of this "Scholar Recruiter" is to " Identify, initiate, and maintain relationships with community based organizations (CBO’s) to develop CBO-to-Success Academy pipelines, identify Success Academy as the premier educational choice in the community, and cement Success Academy as a member of the community."

The following metrics will be used to evaluate their performance:

Scholar Recruiters will be measured against individual performance indicators including but not limited to:

  • Gross application volume generated among families who reside in their regional markets
  • Gross application volume generated to schools in their regional markets.
  • Yield of regional applicant pool that is converted to enrolled status.
  • Retention of enrolled families through the first 60 days of each academic year.
  • Volume of applicant leads generated in their market.
  • Number of new and continuing community-based contacts established and maintained, segmented by type (e.g. social service, faith-based, childcare, business, etc)
  • Conversion rate of event attendees into applicants or long-lead applicants.
  • Regular submission of performance and market data reporting. 

Success Academy also spends millions on advertising and marketing efforts to lure more applicants onto their waiting lists, with ads running on TV, bus shelters, YouTube and Facebook concurrently. They send repeated mailings to families, sometimes as many as 10-12 times per year, after being given free access to DOE mailing lists despite vehement parent protests. (DOE is the only district in the nation to share this info voluntarily.) 

As evidence of their huge marketing efforts, they also have an internal marketing firm, called the Success Academy Creative Agency:

The SA Creative Agency is a full service brand strategy, marketing, and creative division within Success Academy Charter Schools (SACS). Aligning business goals and creative and cultural trends, we partner with internal clients to define the value proposition, develop strategic insights and create marketing campaigns and other creative content to help redefine what’s possible in K-12 public education. 

SA Creative Agency itself advertises many openings, including senior copywriter, creative director, and Leader of Growth Marketing, "responsible for the design and execution of integrated demand strategies across our paid and organic channels."  

According to her Linked in profile, the Success marketing office is headed by someone named Amanda Cabreira da Silva, who came from Revlon, and as of Success Academy's 2017 IRS 990 was paid over $200,000 per year. 

As of the Success Charter Management Company's 2019 990, they also paying a separate marketing company called Madwell LLC $4 million per year, though they inaccurately claim the services were for "renovation."  (Do they mean reputational renovation?)  

Here is one of the Madwell ads for Success, from 2020.  That year, they also paid the marketing company Canal Partners Media $618,285, which describes itself as the "Lead Buying Agency for President Biden in 2020. Involved in every presidential race since '88."   

The  audit for the Success Academy  Schools Charter Management organization [EIN: 20-5298861)  says they spent $5,406,883 for "marketing/recruitment" and another $2,600,995 for "parent/community outreach." during the year ending in June 2022. The audit for the separate organization which makes up their schools, [EIN 36-4629540] reveals additional marketing expenses over this period of  $5,705,582.  So one  can assume that between the two organizations, Success spends over $13 million annually for marketing and recruitment.  That's about $650 per student!

Their internal and external marketing teams are both apparently kept busy. On Facebook, there are at least 23 Success Academy ads being run currently,  at least seven of them videos. Why at least? According to Facebook, several of these ads are algorithmically dynamic, changing according to the characteristics of the viewer. 

 One of those ads seems to unwittingly reveal the underlying nature of Success Academy and its marketing efforts; see the screenshots below.


Thursday, February 16, 2023

PS 145 begs for more space, with overcrowding worsened by co-location and now influx of refugee students

See email and petition below sent to the District 3 Superintendent about the extreme overcrowding at PS 145 on the Upper West Side that opened its doors this fall to 85+ additional students, both refugees and asylum seekers.  Even earlier, the school had lost their library and dedicated rooms for special education service providers to a co-located school.  

For more on how welcoming the school has been to their new refugee students, see this 60 Minutes segment from November, and  60 Minutes overtime.

From: PTA President <>
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2023 11:33 AM
Cc:; Lucas Liu <>;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Leonie Haimson <>; Naveed Hasan <>
Subject: Petition from the PTA of PS 145 to evaluate building space sharing  

Dear Superintendent Samuels,

As parents and guardians of students attending P.S. 145, we are formally requesting a firm commitment to re-evaluate the distribution of space in the P.S. 145 building that you provided during the January 18 CEC 3 meeting. We request a space evaluation in early March as promised, and as a result, more space allocation to PS 145 according to the growing needs of our student population. Our students are increasingly crowded into too little space: current enrollment at the school is 515, and our designated space is for 438 students. Our principal and teachers have displayed admirable flexibility and ingenuity in their use of the space we have, but our building administration requires your partnership in their commitment to our students. 

Please find the petition outlining our parents' and children's concerns and requests. We sincerely appreciate your urgent attention to this matter.

Thank you,  P.S. 145 PTA Co-Presidents and parents

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

What the Chancellor said on class size and raising the charter cap; & Mayor proposes to cut school budgets next year once again

 1. Last week, state education budget hearings were held, where many groups, advocates and organizations inveighed against the Governor's proposal to expand the cap on charter schools. Chancellor Banks also testified and was non-committal, saying it was up to the Mayor weigh in, But under questioning from Sen. Liz Krueger, he admitted that the city’s Office of Management budget had estimated the cost to the DOE of raising the cap was $1.3 billion - though he didn't mention how it could also deprive our public schools of the space needed to lower class size.

When questioned by Sen. John Liu, however, about the new class size reduction law, Banks complained that this would cost the DOE about a billion dollars. Liu pointed out that the DOE was receiving more than this amount from the state a result of the settlement of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, so that it was hardly an unfunded mandate.

The Chancellor admitted that it would be difficult to meet the class size goals starting year three of the five-year phase in. He said that he would form a working group to help develop a class size reduction plan, something we’ve long proposed. Hopefully this group will include some of the many advocates, parents, and elected officials who have pushed for smaller classes, rather than the handful who opposed it.

2. I also submitted testimony, pointing out the many ways in which the DOE has undercut its ability to meet the benchmarks in the law, by cutting school funding, slashing the capital plan, and refusing to lessen enrollment in our most overcrowded schools. Contrary to the claims of the DOE, the Mayor's preliminary budget for next year would reduce school budgets once again – if not as radically as this year. Yet NYC schools should be receiving more funds, not less, to help them lower class size and restore services, especially as DOE is due to receive $568 million in additional CFE funds, and the IBO projects NYC will end fiscal year 2023 with an $4.9B surplus.

As for increasing the number of charter schools, you can join our email campaign urging your legislators to reject the proposal, or pass a resolution here.   I’ll be presenting the charter issue to CEC 15 tomorrow Thursday at 6:30 PM, and you can watch by logging into Zoom here.   If you’d like a similar presentation for your organization, please let me know.

thanks, Leonie

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Send a message to Governor & state legislators: don't raise the cap on charter schools & repeal DOE's obligation to provide them with space!

Gov. Hochul has proposed raising the cap on charter schools and eliminating the regional caps, so that 100-300 more could be authorized in NYC.  Charters are already costing the city about $3 billion per year, and this could double the cost, as well as take away precious space needed to lower class size to the levels in the new state law. A press conference with State senators and parent leaders denouncing this proposal was held last week; see the videos here​.

So please send a message​ to the Governor and your state legislators today, urging them to drop this proposal and instead repeal the provision requiring DOE to provide space for charter schools in public schools or pay for their rent — the only school district in the state and the nation with this onerous obligation.  They should also eliminate the loophole allowing charter schools to expand to all grade levels, otherwise this will continue to cost DOE more money and space every year; and instead, should require more accountability and transparency for the charter sector.

We also have drafted a resolution for CECs​  and other organizations to consider, in opposition to raising the charter cap, and urging the Legislature to adopt the measures above and more.  The resolution is full of facts and figures. We also have a resolution​, urging the Legislature and the NYC Council to hold hearings on DOE’s class size reduction plan — or as the evidence suggests, their lack of any real plan.

Please take a look and if you agree with one or both resolutions, send them to your district CEC or Citywide Council to consider.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Scurrilous fact-free NY Post article about briefings on upcoming CEC elections; please apply to be a CEC candidate yourself!

Yesterday, the NY Post ran a sleazy and fact-free article attacking Shino Tanikawa for a workshop she gave a month ago to inform parents about the upcoming CEC and Citywide Council elections.  Shino is a friend, a long-time parent leader, and currently the well-respected Manhattan representative on the NY State Board of Regents. I refuse to provide a link to the article but it attacked Shino for giving this briefing, because it was co-sponsored by the UFT.

The reporter, Mia Walsh, claimed that the workshop was somehow unfairly biased in favor of pro-UFT positions, even though the two parents quoted in the article who attended the briefing were unable to provide any evidence that would back up this claim:

Two attendees included Deborah Kross, a representative for the Bronx on the Citywide Council on High Schools, and Steve Stowe, president of CEC 20 in Brooklyn....Kross and Stowe found the boot camp to be informative, covering the application process and education law that governs them, but questioned the UFT involvement.

But somehow, they and the NY Post reporter remained suspicious, though they were unable to cite any example of bias: 

"I  think it’s naive to say that the UFT doesn’t have their own interest in all of this,” said Stowe. “That’s something that’s hard to communicate sometimes because the message is that parents have to always support teachers,” he said. 

Parents supporting teachers?  What a radical idea.  

The article also featured a scurrilous personal attack on Shino by Deborah Kross, without bothering to quote any of the hundreds of parents and advocates who admire Shino's principled positions and hard work to improve our schools over many years,  as the former President of CEC2 and as an appointee to many NYC task forces and DOE working groups.

For those who may still harbor suspicions of this briefing, I asked Shino for a copy.  It is posted below.  Please comment if you see any sign of political bias or favoritism to the UFT.  

Parents, please consider running for a position on the Citywide and/or Community Education Councils.  In recent years, a few CECs have been taken over by right-wing zealots, including one CEC which passed a resolution urging the Gov. Hochul to veto the class size bill -- a resolution that was full of factual errors and did not represent the wishes of their constituents, as class size reduction has been the top priority of K12 parents in that same district nearly every year that DOE parent surveys have been given. 

The deadline to nominate yourself to be a candidate is Feb. 15, only ten days away, and the process is simple.  For more information, check out the DOE website here

Friday, February 3, 2023

Legislators and parents speak out against the Governor's proposal to allow up to 300 more charter schools in NYC

Today there was a press conference on the steps of City Hall, to oppose Gov. Hochul's proposal to raise the cap on charter schools, that could add as many as 300 more charters to NYC, as every charter that is approved can multiply into three schools, elementary, middle and high school.  

Stories about this very reckless and damaging proposal by the Governor, which seems to have gone over with the Legislature like a lead balloon,  were published in the NY Times, Chalkbeat, and NY Post, among others.  In Gothamist, I was quoted saying if the cap was raised, it could prevent any  chance that will be enough space in many schools to reduce class size. 

It was very reassuring that so many Legislators have pushed back quickly against this proposal, including the very powerful chairs of the Senate NYC Education Committee John Liu and the Senate Education Committee Shelley B. Mayer, both of whom spoke out forcefully at the press conference, along with Senators Robert Jackson, Jabari Brisport, Cordell Cleare and Jessica Ramos.  Other speakers included NYC Comptroller Brad Lander, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, and many parent leaders.  Many of them also thanked the Governor for fully funding Foundation Aid, but said raising the cap could undermine the good that these additional resources might provide. Check out the videos below.


Saturday, January 28, 2023

Hearings on DOE enrollment/admissions policies: testimony from Deputy Chancellor Weisberg, Jenn Choi, and me

On Wednesday, Jan. 25, the City Council Education Committee held hearings on the DOE's revamped admissions policies.  The parents and advocates who testified as well as the Council Members were divided.  Some said that the new policies that removed academic screens from many middle schools, while basing admissions in selective high schools on a lottery after separating students in four tiers determined by their grades in 7th grade, cheats academically advanced students of the challenges they need to achieve their best.  Other parents and advocates were disappointed that the administration expanded the gifted programs in elementary schools, and in too many middle and high schools, academic screens remain and clearly have a discriminatory and segregating impact. The Council Members also seemed split on whether the current system is equitable and fair.

Council Members Alexa Aviles and Shekar Krishnan questioned Deputy Chancellor Weisberg if the DOE would alter any of their admissions/enrollment policies to more evenly distribute students across schools, to lessen the overcrowding at schools over 100% so they will be able to meet the class size goals in the new state law.  Sadly, he said  no; and he argued that more evenly distributing students across schools would depend on principals at underutilized schools to make their schools more attractive to parents. 

My testimony (see below) dealt  with how how it is DOE's responsibility to ensure that all students and schools can provide a quality education and meet the class size goals in the law.  I also point out that by more evenly distributing students, it will help underutilized and thus underfunded schools provide the staffing and programs their students need.  Chalkbeat recently ran a heartbreaking piece on principal in the Bronx, desperately trying to avoid excessing teachers, by spending days distributing flyers and producing a video to post on Instagram to recruit more students and thus receive more funding, though he was ultimately unsuccessful.  

Why should any principal have to spend their time marketing their schools; isn't it the responsibility of the DOE to ensure that every school has the resources it needs to provide a quality education?  If enrollment was more equally distributed, many schools would likely become more diverse as well, as the most underutilized schools are those that tend to have the highest percentages of Black and Hispanic students.

Weisberg repeatedly insisted they have a plan to meet the goals in the plan, without producing any evidence for that claim, though at times he seemed to limit his comments that they will meet the goals in the first year.  Because of enrollment decline, it is likely that the DOE will be able to make the first year goals for 20% of classes meeting the new class size caps without any effort , and maybe even the second year goals of 40%, if they don't continue cutting school budgets and enrollment continues to fall. 

But it is very unlikely that the class size goals in the 3rd to 5th years in the law can be achieved, without a plan to create enough space, either through aggressive expansion of the capital plan, and/or efforts to more evenly distribute students across schools, by rezoning elementary and capping enrollment severely overcrowded middle and high school enrollment at lower levels. 

In my testimony I also explain how the current "school choice" policies with parents applying to up to ten schools and the schools essentially deciding who to admit are based upon a failed free-market model from the Bloomberg years, in that the best schools will "win" by attracting more students, and the others would be allowed to wither and die, with other new public schools or charter schools put in their place. 

I found the testimony of parents of students with disabilities also quite affecting as to the hurdles their children face in being admitted to high schools that will help them reach their full potential.  Discrimination comes in many forms, and below my testimony is that of Jenn Choi, the mother of a student with special needs who also works at Special Support Services, which advises parents on how to navigate the labyrinthine and often very frustrating special education system in the NYC public schools.

Mayor Adams preliminary education budget - bare bones & non-transparent

January 13, 2023

Yesterday, the Mayor released his preliminary budget for next year.  DOE as a whole would be cut by another $800 million, over and above a cut of an additional $176 million made in November.  Though more than $500 million of these reductions appear to relate to the decision to halt the further expansion of 3K (or as the budget document calls it, “3K right-sizing”), there are other budget lines so ambiguous as to be impossible to interpret.  I went over several of the budget docs with an education finance expert, and she was as confused as I was about some of the bullet points it contained.  You can check out the budget docs yourself,  if you are so inclined.

For example, there is a budget line in the Program to Eliminate the Gap (or PEG) of  DOE “savings” of nearly $100 million next year, added to savings of $40 million this year, entitled “Vaccine mandate school support funds re-estimate” and described this way: “Less than anticipated spending for schools addressing staffing changes related to vaccination mandate.”  What does that mean?

If this refers to schools losing positions due to staffers refusing to be vaccinated, shouldn’t schools be allowed to hire new staff to replace them?  And why are savings of nearly $100 million anticipated for next year, when presumably all the school staff who refused to be vaccinated have already left?

Here is an excerpt from the Daily News article, further showing the administration’s troubling and apparently purposeful lack of clarity:

“[Adams] blueprint shows 2024 spending for the Education Department dropping … However, in a briefing with reporters, Adams budget advisers, who only spoke on condition of anonymity, said the 2024 figures for most agencies should be taken with a grain of salt because they may not include federal grants that are baked in later on.”

Indeed, the usual black hole of the DOE budget has been made even darker by the fact that this administration claims they can move around federal money as they like, without any transparency. The only mention of schools in their brief budget summary is an increase of $47.5 million for “enhancing security measures to protect students at all Department of Education schools” – apparently  to install door locking mechanisms and cameras.  I see no mention in any of the budget documents of funding allocated for any of the other recent promises made by DOE, including adding 400 new special ed PreK seats, or the additional $12 million to support schools dealing with thousands of new migrant students.

Highlighted by many reporters is how the Mayor and his aides assured them that their original plan to make additional  cuts of $80 million to schools’  Fair Student Funding would not be imposed.  The administration also claimed that the $800 million in additional cuts they are proposing to DOE will not affect any existing teacher positions.  And  yet they made this exact same promise to the City Council  last year, and we all know how those cuts forced schools to excess hundreds of teachers, and/or found themselves unable to replace scores of teachers who had retired or quit.  As a result, class sizes increased substantially  in most schools, and many  lost teacher aides and essential programs like  art or music.

Yesterday, we re-ran the numbers on the Galaxy cuts to schools for this year, and the total net cuts at this point compared to last year are now at $823 million.  Fully 86% of schools have experienced cuts to their budgets totaling $893 million, averaging about $655,000 each.  To see how much funding your school has lost, you can check out the spreadsheet linked to on our website here.  The Comptroller’s figures, which have been widely cited by reporters and officials, only reflect the cuts to Fair Student Funding, NOT the cuts to entire school budgets, which have been far more extensive.

The fact that the city has no apparent plans to increase school budgets next year is even more unacceptable, given how they are due to receive about $600M in additional Foundation funds from the state, in what is slated to be the final increase of the CFE settlement

Every single dollar of that additional $600 million should go to schools to help them restore and add more positions, especially as the new state class size law comes into effect next fall, which requires them to start lowering class size. Already, according to the State Comptroller, the DOE has lost  4,815 positions since June 2020, and yet  according to a staffing budget document just released, the DOE is not planning to add a single additional teacher through at least June 2025.

In any case,  in their response to this preliminary budget, the City Council should not merely oppose these additional cuts but should fight to reverse the cuts already made to schools and substantially increase their funding, to ensure that the teaching positions already lost are restored and augmented, so that schools can start lowering class size.  As I am quoted in Gothamist, the administration should be “boosting school budgets,” particularly as the class size law is set to go into effect.

Council Members should also insist on far more budget clarity, so that the DOE include additional budget lines (called Units of Appropriation) that reflect actual dollars to be allocated to schools, making it less likely that they, along with some reporters, will be deceived again about what their proposed budget means when it comes to the quality of education that students receive every day in our schools.