Thursday, May 30, 2013

DOE Allows Charter Schools to Set Up Stealth Pre-K programs to Further Undermine Public Schools

DOE is approving over 400,000 thousand dollars to PAVE for their pre-k program. They are getting about 30,000 less than PS 15 does for Pre-K, but we run 4 classes and PAVE will run 3..... Public school administrators all over this city must fight or beg for every resource they bring to their schools, while charter school operators clearly have people in high places simply making things happen for them, regardless of laws, procedure, or decency.... Teacher at PS 15K
The criminals at Tweed are at it again. And where is the UFT on these blatant thefts of kids out of public schools? The charter lobby push to get their mitts on pre-k is getting intense. If they can steal these kids right off then they capture the early creaming crowd. 

From my very first day of teaching we learned that the kids who registered for pre-k ended up being the top performing kids in our school for the rest of the time they were there. They made up the "one" class while the kids who did not go to pre-k often ended up struggling. Was it the fact that they had an extra year in school or a sign that the family was more aware and education conscious? A combo of both but I lean toward the latter. You would likely find less single and more working parents. Charters know that full well.

Ed Notes first reported this story on the day of the hearing (NYCDOE Charter Hits Keep Coming on PAVE Favoratism) with a slap at the NYC Press corps for ignoring this important aspect of charter school greed and theft of public monies by stretching the law to grab pre-k kids before they get to the local public school. Eve did this to PS 123 in Harlem which ended up losing pre-k classes. In DOE-Tweedie land, public school parents must go on line to register for pre-k (and many parents in poor neighborhoods may not have access) while the charter school pre-k scams allow parents to register in person.

I actually got an email from a reporter for a major media outlet chastizing me for criticizing them for not covering a story that was breaking that night. Of course she is (purposely?) missing the point of the larger story told here by a teacher at PS 15 in Red Hook that fought against the PAVE invasion until they were given 30+ million dollars to build their own school, another aspect of the shameful NYC ed press corps which would jump on a teacher for stealing a dime. Now they are given another 400K for a school run by a billionaire.

As readers know, we have been involved in the struggle over PAVE/PS 15 since it began. That is how we met Julie Cavanagh through GEM's support. PAVE finally left the building after Bloomberg gave them 30 mil for their own building, a true theft of public funds.

Now PAVE was trying to get the space being used by the senior citizen center which was forced out by flooding for their prek program, later denied, but a sample of their avarice and arrogance. Why doesn't Bloomberg just build them another building?

Here are reports on the "hearing" which was held on very short notice.
Several weeks ago, I ran into an employee of PAVE Academy at a shop in Park Slope.  We were familiar with one another from the required "Shared Space" meetings that co-located schools are required to hold. We exchanged greetings, and she excitedly told me, “We’re getting a Pre-K now!”  "We" being PAVE Academy, and the Pre-K is a not-yet-approved program, for which PAVE has been advertising job postings online since January. To most of us, this is what we call putting the cart before the horse, but in charter school land, it’s just another day. 

Monday May 6, a “public” hearing was held to recognize PAVE’s application to amend their charter to hold their kindergarten lottery 17 months ahead of the kindergarten start date.  Once approved, and I’ve never seen an application of PAVE or most any other charter school denied, this would allow the school to hold a lottery early enough to accept students into their alleged “separate entity” Pre-K.  But the lottery was already held in April and the Pre-K doesn’t exist yet, as it hasn’t been approved. 

Furthermore, New York State Charter Law states that charter schools may not operate Pre-K programs. So to summarize, a lottery was held before the hearing  to request to hold an early lottery and job postings were up before the jobs existed and the program approved. Oh, and the hearing was not advertised anywhere in the community, nor the usual places online.  The few people I know who even heard about it, learned of it hours before it began. 

This kind of shady backdoor dealing is typical of the DOE’s Office of Charter Schools, and the Department of Education in General.  Does anyone remember the emails between Eva Moskowitz and former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein? I certainly remember PAVE Academy having the address of my school listed as their own on a charter school directory website before their co-location was officially approved. 

It is well known that Spencer Robertson and his partner in Crime Cooper Westendarp have their eyes on NYCHA’s Miccio Communty Center in Red Hook to house PAVE’s Pre-K. This is the very facility that allowed PAVE Academy to use space during their displacement due to hurricane Sandy.  

Currently, this facility is being used as a replacement location for the Red Hook Senior Center, as the Senior Center was flooded and ruined by the hurricane. It makes little sense to renovate and return seniors to a basement space in a flood zone, so for now, the Miccio is all they have. Which explains why a large group of seniors walked over to attend the hearing. But Mr. Westendarp stopped all of them in the lobby, stating the meeting had nothing to do with their space (and who knows what other fiction he shared) causing confusion among the group, who ultimately left the building.   

For those of us that know how the DOE works, and how charter schools work, we know the hearing had everything to do with their space. You just have to connect the dots. The few attendees who made it past Cooper Westendarp and did show up to the hearing made the connection, and not one community member or parent spoke in favor of the amendment to the charter.

There are many other things to consider here, one being that just because the DOE has shirked state laws to allow charter school darling Jeffery Canada to open a Pre-K program in Harlem, does not make it right or legal to extend such a favor to Mr. Robertson.  Also, the need for more Pre-K seats within the Red Hook community is debatable.  

The principal of P.S. 15 was previously denied additional requested Pre-K classes, and wasn't granted one until she agreed to open a Dual Language Pre-K program, which opened this year.   P.S. 15 currently has 66 seats available for zoned students, and although many more than that have applied for these seats, about half of the applicants are students from other neighborhoods.  

This shows the need for additional Pre-K seats clearly exists not so much in Red Hook, but within the communities of Carroll Gardens, Sunset Park, Windsor Terrace and Park Slope, the places where the other applicants live. 

The principal of Red Hook's other public elementary school, P.S. 676, has been repeatedly denied from expanding her Pre-K as well, after applying for additional classes for  years. P.S. 676 is willing and happy to expand their program this fall to meet any such need that may exist in the Red Hook community. Of course in order to do so, the principal needs the Department of Education’s approval— a favor clearly reserved for charter school operators. As I write this I worry that the Department of Education will use information I've shared to take classes away from my school, as they have denied us programs in the past because of our five year co-location with PAVE academy. Public school administrators all over this city must fight or beg for every resource they bring to their schools, while charter school operators clearly have people in high places simply making things happen for them, regardless of laws, procedure, or decency.
Here is an email -- edited a bit by me to remove some of the details of how many pre-k kids, etc  ---- the teacher sent to the charter school office of the DOE. The teacher gave me permission to use her name but I'm redacting. It contains similar material as above but I like the raw day-after outrage --- which I would also direct at the UFT leadership which is oh-so silent. Maybe the UFT silence is why PS 15 is such a strong supporter of MORE. Where is that COPE money being used to defend public education? Maybe they want the UFT charter to do the same thing.

Subject: PAVE Academy Charter School
Date: May 7, 2013 6:50:24 AM EDT
This email is to serve as a record of my opposition to the revision of PAVE Academy's charter to hold their Kindergarten lottery 17 months ahead of the student's actual kindergarten start-date.  The reason for this revision is to allow PAVE to open a Pre-K program, which is illegal under New York State Charter Laws.  Allowing them to create a non-profit "separate entity" claimed to be run by a separate board of trustees is simply this city's way to circumvent state laws, which is despicable. 
Speaking of despicable, the meeting last night was clearly in violation of the guidelines set forth for such meetings, as it was not publicized on the DOE website at all, and as shown by poor attendance, not made public to the community of Red Hook in any way. There is a larger issue that DOE representatives refused to address at the meeting. Although, as usual, rules and laws rarely apply to Mr. Robertson, PAVE's founder and director. He has his eyes on space owned by NYCHA that is currently being used to house displaced senior citizens whose Red Hook facility was flooded and ruined due to hurricane Sandy. (He had his eyes on my school's building as well, and before our public hearing, the address of my school, P.S. 15 was listed as  PAVE's on the charter school directory online.)  

Therefore, it's hard to pretend that yesterday's meeting was simply about adjusting a charter to  allow the school to run their Kindergarten lottery 17 months ahead of time, as they have already held their lottery for next year and enrolled students in their not-yet-approved Pre-K program, and have job postings all over the internet for their not-yet-approved PreK program. Of course, Spencer's colleague Cooper Westendarp very cleverly and deceptively told a group of senior citizens who attempted to attend the meeting last night that it had nothing to do with taking their space, and who knows what other lies, causing the entire group to leave before the meeting began.  In fact, he stopped them in the lobby, so they didn't even get near the meeting space.

There are many other things to consider here, one being just because rules and laws have been shirked to allow your favorite charter rockstar and John Legend's best bud Jeffery Canada to open a PreK program, does not make it right in the eyes of the law (or this tax payer and public school teacher) to extend such a favor to Mr. Robertson in  a neighborhood where the need for more PreK seats is debatable.  For example, my principal was previously denied additional requested Pre-K classes, and wasn't granted one until she agreed to open a Dual Language Pre K program.  Furthermore, the principal of Red Hook's other public school, P.S. 676 has been denied from expanding her Pre-K as well, and she has openly stated that she has room to open 2 more classes, and is willing to do so and will apply to expand her program to meet any such need that may exist in the Red Hook community.

The shady way in which this meeting was held, and the fact that not one parent or community member spoke in favor of granting the charter revision to PAVE should be of some significance.

A parent activist comments on her reading of the law:
My (inexpert) reading of the law is that this is not against the law. It seems charters may not get state funding for pre-k, but the separate entity certainly is allowed to do so. Look for more of these as pre-k funding increases. It is a loophole for sure and goes against the spirit of the law ( lottery and pre-k) but charter schools ( like most corps) have been exploiting loopholes for profit as the backbone of this nation since the dawn of capitalism and free markets.

Here is one article

Red Hook Charter School Launches Pre-K Program

PAVE Academy Charter School Looks to Start Pre-K Program
RED HOOK — A new pre-K program is coming to Red Hook this fall, sponsored by a local charter school.
PAVE Academy Charter School is launching three full-day pre-K classes with a total of 54 4-year-olds in September, after winning approval from the city's Office of Early Childhood Education earlier this month.
The school held a lottery for the seats in April and allowed winning pre-K families to also reserve a kindergarten spot for the following year, said Spencer Robertson, director of PAVE Academy, who started the K-8 charter school in 2008.
The pre-K program, which will be run by a separate nonprofit because charter schools are not allowed to run their own pre-K, recently applied for $453,521 in funding from the Panel for Education Policy.
Robertson had hoped to house the pre-K classes in the PAL Miccio Center, a New York City Housing Authority building that now contains a senior center and was formerly used by a Head Start program, but the school was denied use of the space, Robertson said in an email.
“We understand the decision and are now looking for an alternate space in Red Hook where the pre-K program can operate,” Robertson said.
Some local education leaders said they did not see a need for more pre-K programs in the area. While other neighborhoods in District 15, such as Sunset Park, South Slope and Park Slope, have issues with large class size and overcrowding, Red Hook has not faced that issue, said Jim Devor, president of the Community Education Council in Brooklyn's District 15.
“Frankly there is no need for pre-K space in Red Hook,” Devor said.
The Department of Education added 4,000 new pre-K seats this year to boost early childhood education throughout the city. Community-based organizations like PAVE Pre-K have an application process that is separate from pre-K application for public schools.

Here is the NYC Charter school center lobbying for charter pre-k. Don't gag.
New York has nearly doubled access to pre-K education over the
past decade. But we are still far from providing truly universal access. The 2013–2014 budget’s $25 million for expanding access to high quality, full-day pre-K services is a step in the right direction, but there are more steps ahead.

To continue making progress, New York’s high-quality public charter schools must be given the same opportunities as any other public school. That means authorizing high-quality public charter schools to provide pre-K services and granting access to new state funding streams.
From the conclusion of a policy brief by NYCAN, the advocacy group, that argues for charter schools to be allowed to offer pre-kindergarten programs, which state law currently prohibits. The issue is one that charter school advocates across the state have made a top priority for this legislative session, but education bills face an uphill battle even to be considered this year.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating).