Friday, April 30, 2010

Charter Operator Dirty Tactics (With DOE Complicity) Undermine Public Schools

Updated: 8am with new info from PS 241, Harlem

One of the basic tenets of the Ed Deform movement is the fragmentation and destabalization of local community schools. Why? To remove the stake locals have in their public schools. Note how charters can draw from a much wider catch basin than zoned public schools. (The destruction of community is an issue we must explore further - but see Lois Weiner's video where she spoke after Diane Ravitch at NYU and explored so many implications of "The Plan" at We hope to have Lois as a guest speaker at an upcoming GEM meeting.

The tactics used are many. One of the key issues that arose at the Perkins charter school hearings was the confrontation between Perkins and John White over the release of student information to charter operators. I have some good video of this which will be up in a few days.

Another lesser known tactic is to redirect pre-k kids from the public school they attend into the charter kindergarten by making it more difficult for parents to register their kids in the public school.

We first heard about this from our friends at PS 123 in Harlem where this tactic shunted kids to Moskowitz' Harlem Success and ended up reducing PS 123's pre-k population from (I think) 3 classes to 1. By the way, HSA at PS 123 has an illegal pre-k (not part of their charter) but calls it something else.

Before you know it, Moskowitz will be finding out the names of every pregnant woman and trying to enroll their kids before they are born.

Here is an email I received from a high school teacher who is shocked at these tactics.

Hi Norm,

I’ve met you a few times. I thought of you when I heard the information I am about to tell you. I have a very good friend who teaches a pre K program in Brooklyn. She told me that parents of children in her class are receiving letters saying that their child is accepted at______ (whatever the local charter school is).

There are several problems with this charter school tactic.

These parents never applied to the charter school.

How are the charter school operators getting names and addresses of these parents if they never applied to this charter school?

Someone, somehow, is supplying this operator with names and addresses from the pre K database. Is this even legal?

This friend also told me that the school that houses the program she works in used to automatically enroll any Pre K kid in the kindergarten once they are old enough. This year, this same school is making parents re-register their kids in the school if the parents want them to go to kindergarten in the same school.

Why is this new procedure now in place?

My friend is advising parents to be careful with charter schools, and that they should visit the charter first, ask a lot of questions, and not jump to enroll their kid even if the charter is aggressively soliciting “business”. What do you think? My friend is very upset and disturbed, since this charter operator is trying to lure kids away from her school, and using her program as a jumping-off point. Thanks for any ideas you can offer.

I asked my friend to ask a parent if she could actually take a look at one of these letters. She hasn’t actually seen one, but the parents, whom she has a wonderful relationship with, were complaining to and questioning her about these letters.

Another teacher writes:

The DOE is also sabotaging our Gifted and Talented program...they are offering kids who pass the test who are currently enrolled at my school, other schools - NOT mine.

And another just sent this:

You might want to add that at 241 DOE took away PreK to severely affect enrollment. We have many families who need and want PreK and are struggling to get their kids in any PreK which has now resulted in our losing these kids for Kindergarten and forever! Enrollment sabotage is real and thriving here!

We are responding and will contact the local political forces, who are strong anti-charter school people in the area.

Then got this:

Norm a friend of mine got one of these letters from LaCima Charter in Dist 16. I will ask her for a look. Can we ask for their lottery results? I believe that we should demand that the CEC and President's Council to be required to sign off with a passed resolution on their application to ensure the community is well aware and most importantly the parents in the community are saying yes to them.

The Takeway
By the way, let me not get away without a shot at the UFT (the Unity slugs are all down in Washington DC at the NY State United Teachers conference - just so you know why your local slug is not in school - I ran into one of them yesterday at a rest stop in Maryland). Why are teachers finding out about the DOE/charter school tactics from parents and not from their union so they can mount a defense? But then again, the UFT has its own charter school (one of the major errors they have ever made) issues to deal with.

That is what GEM is doing. Trying to assist these schools where they can in the absence of the UFT. Don't get me wrong here. We welcome the UFT if they get moving and will work with them in mounting a defense. But first they must raise the alarm system wide about what is happening so teachers can begin to educate and organize the parents and other teachers in their schools.

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