Eva Moskowitz’s Success Charter Network will see per-pupil fee rise from $1,350 to $2,000 if SUNY trustees give okay. Public kept in dark about sweet deals for Success Charter Network schools.SUNY moving quickly, and quietly, to boost per-pupil fees and let network chief Eva Moskowitz retool Harlem charters, but documents withheld from parents
Noah Gotbaum on the SUNY charter committee's decision to table the hike in fees of Success Academy charter today
Some discussion about what would be on the agenda, prior resolutions, ground rules with O’Brien alternately praising CSI’s “great work” while repeatedly saying there would be no public discussion or comments. After about 15 minutes, he called for an Executive Session and asked us all to leave, to which a number in our group asked “what are you hiding?” and “why are you shutting out the public?” O’Brien then called the guards in while the counsel explained that they were discussing privileged and confidential lawyer/client information regarding the charter replication process.
I found this almost funny given my conversation with a UFT person over a year ago who was laying out the UFT strategy on charters when I pointed out that with each charter the UFT was losing members. He said that the cap wouldn't change and the UFT could live with 200 schools and would be rigorously organizing them. How is that working out?
Here is Juan Gonzalez' report:
David Handschuh/New York Daily News
SUNY trustees are rushing to approve a whopping 50% increase in the annual per-pupil management fee the state pays to one of the city’s biggest and most controversial charter school operators.
Under the plan, the Success Charter Network, run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, will see its management fee jump from $1,350 to $2,000 for each pupil enrolled at its five schools in the Harlem area.
Moskowitz, who currently runs 11 charter schools throughout the city, has made no secret of her plans to expand that number.
The jump in her network’s management fees from 10% to 15% of total state aid per child, however, would place it nearly on a par with fees charged by the city’s few for-profit charter operators.
One study of charter management firms two years ago found that nonprofit networks averaged 9% in fees, while for-profit firms averaged 17%.
The increase for the Success Network is being carried out in a stealth manner, as is an accompanying proposal to reorganize its five Harlem schools — Harlem Success Academy 1 to 5 — under a single nonprofit corporation, even though they are located in three separate community school districts.
Moskowitz submitted a formal application in March to both the state and the city to amend her charters for the five schools, according to documents obtained by the Daily News.
But it was not until a week ago, on the evening of April 17, that the DOE informed local parents and community education councils by email that a hearing to solicit comments on the proposal would be held three days later.
“When we asked to see the actual proposal, we were told we would have to file a Freedom of Information (Act) request,” Noah Gotbaum of the District 3 Community Education Council on the upper West Side said.
“How can the public respond when we can’t even see the real documents?”
Still, New York City education official Debra Schwartzman went ahead with the hearing on Friday evening.
As you might expect, the huge auditorium at Public School 149 where it was held was virtually empty.
Only Gotbaum and Julius Tajiddin, a member of the School Leadership Team at Frederick Douglass Academy 2, showed up.
“Schwartzman told us she wasn’t there to answer questions, only to take public comments,” Gotbaum said.
Gotbaum then pointed out to her that there was no stenographer present or even a tape recorder.
Schwartzman assured him, he said, she would recall what was said.
As Gotbaum and Tajiddian took turns registering their objections, a new email arrived on Gotbaum’s iPhone.
It was a notice that the SUNY board of trustees had scheduled a vote for Tuesday at 1 p.m. on the proposal.
So you have this mockery of the democratic process where parents are asked to comment on a document they have never seen, and even before they’ve done so, the bureaucracy schedules a vote.
Asked about her proposed changes, Moskowitz said in a statement:
“These changes will allow us to serve even larger numbers of special-needs students, particularly those with more severe needs. Also, by combining our schools at the middle school level, we will be able to provide our students with more robust programs in areas such as sports and arts.”
Supporters of Moskowitz’s schools point to the uniformly high scores on standardized tests that pupils in her six-year-old network have recorded.
Opponents claim the Success Network creams the best performing students from the public schools and foments neighborhood conflicts by always insisting on more space in public school buildings where its programs are located.
As for the big hike in fees, Success Network spokeswoman Jenny Sedlis said they were justified because the organization “provides a phenomenal level of services that goes far beyond the service level contemplated under its services agreements with its schools.”
Below is the text of the NY1 report:
The Success Academy Charter schools are among the city's highest performing and most controversial schools, as they are state-funded and housed rent-free in public school buildings, and on Tuesday a state board allowed five of these schools boards to merge under a single board of trustees. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
More and more city students are wearing orange, the color of the Success Academy uniform. It's spreading as quickly as the schools are growing. This fall, the charter network will have 12 schools across three boroughs, with six more in the works for 2013.
Now the schools are consolidating their leadership. Under a never-before-used provision in state law, five Success Schools will merge under a single board of trustees, with plans for the rest to follow.
"I am in support of the merger. It gives parents like myself more choices," said charter school parent Tom Perna.
These choices include allowing students to transfer between the schools.
The state board that authorizes charters voted Tuesday to allow the merger.
One board member asked if they were creating a mini-school district, and the short answer is basically yes.
"I don’t appreciate their back-door method that they’re using to monopolize education in Harlem and all the communities alike," said public school parent Michelle Chapman.
There was another proposal on the table. Right now, 10 percent of what the state pays for each student goes to the Success Network Central office to cover administrative costs, open new schools and recruit students.
Success wants that raised to 15 percent, meaning less would go directly to the schools.
That got postponed after being questioned in a newspaper column Tuesday morning. A SUNY administrator said the board needs more information.
"What happened was they got caught. They tried to increase their fee in the dead of night," said parent leader Noah Gotbaum.
One charter parent defended the 15 percent charge.
"I think that is one of the equations that makes our schools work so well, that all of that administration is centralized at the network level," said charter parent Ny Whitaker.
Though the schools are high performing, communities across the city have protested their expansion into public school buildings.
The SUNY trustees did not take any community input into consideration before unanimously approving the charter schools merger. Under state law, the meeting had to be public, but they refused to allow anyone who attended to speak.