Please send a letter
now to Chancellor Carranza to rescind the decision to close PS 25 and
allow the school to grow by putting a PreKch and a 3K class in the
school for next year.
As described earlier on this blog,
and in several news articles, Judge Katherine Levine of the Kings
County Supreme Court blocked the DOE from closing PS 25 Eubie Blake, and
on May 24 extended the temporary restraining order to allow this Bed
Stuy public school to remain open at least another year.
The DOE had proposed closing the
school, ostensibly because it was “under-enrolled.” And yet by the their
own admission, it was the fourth best elementary school in the entire
city, according to the “impact” rating on the DOE performance dashboard, which former Chancellor Carmen Farina had boasted was the “most advanced tool of its kind.”
While the school is above average on performance on raw test scores and
attendance, its impact is stellar if one takes into account the
socioeconomic background and need level of the students.
We now have a transcript
of the PS 25 court hearing, in which the issue of class size repeatedly
came up. The school has very small classes of 10 to 18 students, and
none of the other schools that DOE allowed PS 25 parents to apply to
have classes that small. Among the questions Judge Levine asked was, “Would you concede that maybe one of the reason this school is doing so well is because it has small class sizes?” Response from the city’s attorney, Caroline Kruk: “I can’t speak to that.”
When asked what the downside would
be if the school remain open for another year, Kruk replied that 3,000
students from all the schools DOE had proposed closing could not be
re-assigned to different schools, which Judge Levine said was “ridiculous.” Only those students who currently attended PS 25 and whose parents wanted to remain there would be affected.
Judge Levine went on to ask, “The
worst that happens if I keep the stay on [to keep the school open] is
that the kids will have the benefit of this school for another year. Now what are you going to tell me, financially, it helps the DOE if I close it? What is the argument other than the fact that you think this school should be closed? Forget about 3,000, we’re talking about 100. What is the downside?”
Kruk had no real answer to that pivotal question. “It’s simply …a low demand, there’s low attendance and …there is a lack of resources, you know, information – “
Judge Levine: “No. I’m
not hearing – do you have anything in your papers that say this school
really stinks and there is no resources for this school so four kids are
suffering? What resources are lacking? They are learning and they are doing well.”
Ms. Kruk: “Okay, understood, and your Honor, I would stress even if the equities don’t weigh in the Department of Education’s favor—"
Judge Levine: “They don’t.”
Judge then asked if the DOE would agree to promise that if the school
closed, its students would be able to attend a better school than PS 25.
Ms.Kruk: ”… because
of the ranking of the school, it has a high ranking, its simply
unrealistic to supply all the students with better schools.”
Because the city could not explain
what damage would be done by keeping the school open for another year,
and that the DOE could not agree that they would attend a better school
(indeed there are only three in the entire city, and none were offered
to the parents) the Judge ordered that the school stay open at least
another year. Over that time,
she would carefully untangle the complicated legal issues involved,
including whether a vote of the Community Education Council was required
to close a zoned school.
Since any changes in zoning lines have to be approved by the local CEC, according to NY Education law 2590-E,
this was one of the plaintiffs strongest arguments as no CEC vote has
yet occurred. The city’s attorney unconvincingly argued in response that
the zoning lines “haven’t been amended. They are currently in existence, there is just no school within it.”
In the end, what was evident from
the city’s arguments that apart from the illegality of closing a zoned
school without the approval of the CEC, they really have no reason to
close PS 25, at least no reason that they were willing to make public at
Soon thereafter, however, Eva Moskowitz went on the warpath. On June 11, she sent out a press advisory, announcing she would hold a rally in front of City Hall the next day, to protest that the DOE was denying space to “Success Academy Lafayette Middle School”, a school, which by the way, did not yet exist.
She claimed that the Mayor was waging “bureaucratic trench warfare against Success — the latest episode of a long-running political vendetta,”
by denying middle school seats to the fourth graders about to graduate
from the Success Cobble Hill elementary school, and that the city had
reneged on a promise to her that they would be able to attend a new
middle school in the PS 25 building:
kids are set to begin fifth grade at the school, located in Bed-Stuy,
Brooklyn, in just 10 weeks. In a complete about-face, City Hall is now
threatening to prevent the school from opening — and leave the building with 900 empty seats — due to a bureaucratic paperwork issue.”
I had known that a Success elementary school, Success Bed Stuy 3, had already moved into the PS 25 building in the fall of 2016. PS
25 was originally a K-8 school, but several DOE’s decisions had
contributed to its enrollment shrinking over time. As of 2004-2005
school year, PS 25 had 773 students throughout grades K-8. In the fall
of 2006, the upper grades of PS 25 were separated from the elementary
school, creating the Upper School at PS 25 (IS 534), leaving PS 25 to
serve only grades K-5. Then in 2016, IS 534 was moved half a mile away
and merged with PS 308 Clara Cardwell, a far less successful school with an impact rating of .30, the same year that Success Bed Stuy 3 moved into the building.
I had heard murmurings about a
Success middle school, as Eva Moskowitz had been insistent that DOE had
to provide her with more middle school seats, but I hadn’t paid this
issue much attention as the DOE had had said that it had no plans for
the space that PS 25 would vacate. The only mention oat f this issue in the EIS proposing PS 25’s closure, dated January 5, 2018, was that: “Pursuant to Chancellor’s Regulation A-190, the NYCDOE may issue an EIS for the future use of space in K025, if applicable.”
Chancellor’s regulation A-190 in accordance with NY education law Section 2590-h
requires that any change in the utilization of a public school building
must follow a certain legal process, including the posting of an EIS at
least six months ahead of the next school year, followed by public
hearings and a vote of the Panel for Educational Policy.
At the the Success rally in front of City Hall on
July 12, Eva Moskowitz excoriated the mayor: “The
de Blasio administration throwing kids out onto the street? Does this
sound familiar? But this might be a new low for the mayor. Can you
imagine how the mayor would react if this was his own kids?”
The day of the rally, she put out a press release
, claiming that the school was being “evicted” and that the de Blasio administration was “employing
a bureaucratic paperwork loophole to block the school from opening. ….
Officials could fix this problem with the stroke of a pen, yet they’ve
refused to do so for purely political reasons
that word “evicted”, though these students had never been in the
building in the first place. The press release went on to argue:
“How did it
come to this? Earlier this year, the city Department of Education
agreed to let Success open four additional middle schools across the
city, including Success Academy Lafayette in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. SA
Lafayette was a stopgap solution because the city claimed to need more
time to find a location in District 15 for Cobble Hill and Williamsburg
families, who have been waiting for a permanent middle school location
for nearly four years. Out of necessity, Success proposed converting an
existing elementary school (SA Bed-Stuy 3) into a middle school and
transferring the elementary school students to two nearby Success
schools. The city agreed to this plan
. [emphasis mine].”
However whether adding a middle school into the building or converting
Success Bed Stuy 3 into middle school and moving its current students
elsewhere, would entail a change in school utilization, and legally
require the process described above. An EIS would have had to be posted
no later than March 5, given the six-month mandate outlined in state
law and Chancellor’s regs. This never occurred, and it would be too
late to occur now, at the end of the school year.
Eva tried to dispute that an EIS would be necessary, but then conceded, “However, even if DOE were correct that an EIS were now required, there is a simple and easy solution.”
She proposed that the chancellor skip the required six-month process, by latching on to an exception in the law:
event that the chancellor determines that …. significant change in
school utilization is immediately necessary for the preservation of
student health, safety or general welfare, the chancellor may
temporarily…. adopt a significant change in the school’s utilization on
an emergency basis. —Education Law §2590-h(2-a) (f)”.
Yet this section in the law is supposed to be contemplated only in the
cases of actual emergencies, like hurricanes or other disasters
rendering school buildings uninhabitable, so that entire classes of
students would have to attend school in other buildings; it would surely
be illegal to cite this exception to allow charter schools to move into
buildings at the last minute, with no such rationale.
The day before, Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose had responded to Eva Moskowitz’s press advisory, with a letter, released to the press
, that laid out alternatives for space that could be provided to her middle school class of 70 students.
These alternatives included a list of facilities that Success already
occupies in Brooklyn, or would next fall that are all within .7 and 3.7
miles of PS 25, totaling more than three thousand available seats,
arrayed in four DOE-owned buildings and two stand-alone buildings.
Because three of these buildings would only house Success students,
including one in a DOE-owned building, Rose added the following notation
in the right-most column of the chart: “No EIS for this building”–
suggesting that no public process or vote would have to occur to change
the building’s utilization, itself a rather questionable interpretation
of the law. There is no
exception in the law that allows changes in school utilization to evade
the required public process, even in the case of DOE-owned buildings
that only contain charter schools.
Yet Rose also admitted that there had indeed been an unpublicized
agreement with Eva that her middle school could be inserted into the PS
25 building, that is, before the court ordered that PS 25 should remain
Panel for Educational Policy unanimously voted to approve the closure
of P.S. 25 at a public meeting on February 28, 2018. Success Academy
requested additional rooms in K025 for the 2018-‐2019 school year to
serve fifth grade students from Success Academy Cobble Hill. The DOE
agreed to this request, for one year only, under the assumption that
Success Academy Bed-‐Stuy 3 would be the only other school operating in
K025 during the 2018-‐2019 school year….
First, Rose’s statement that the vote to close PS 25 was unanimous is false. As the PEP minutes of the February 28 meeting confirm,
the vote was 8-5, as is usual with controversial proposals, with every
mayoral appointee voting yes, and every borough appointee voting no.
the idea that this would be only a “temporary” arrangement, and that
Eva would agree to move the middle school out of the PS 25 building
after one year is risible; especially as she is already claiming
eviction when her school was never in the building in the first place.
Rose went on to argue that this insertion would have been lawful, but it was the litigation over PS 25 that now made it illegal:
lawsuit contesting the closure of P.S. 25 commenced shortly after the
vote. As part of the litigation, DOE has been stayed from closing P.S.
25, which has the effect of staying the siting of any other school
there. In addition, Success Academy notified families—though not the
DOE—that it would close Bed-‐Stuy
3 at the end of this school year, leaving no PEP approved Success
Academy school in the building. Unfortunately, in light of this
litigation and related developments, Success Academy Cobble Hill fifth
graders cannot legally use building K025 next year.”
Yet whether or not PS 25 had closed, it would have been violation of
both Chancellor’s regulations and Education Law 2590h to alter the
utilization of the PS 25 building by moving a Success middle school in,
without an EIS and a separate vote of the PEP.
Instead, the DOE could have proposed the Success middle school should be
inserted into the building, and posted an EIS by March 5, or even
earlier in December, when the proposal to close PS 25 was first
released. Why they didn’t do
this, and insisted they had no additional plans for the building until
now is hard to understand– unless Rose thought by doing so would provoke
even more community opposition and suspicion that the real reason the
DOE wanted to close the school was to enable Eva Moskowitz to further
expand her empire.
This would not have been the first time the DOE cleared out an entire public-school building for Eva. Check out the “East Flatbush” building with 1000 empty seats listed in the chart above, K864/K869 in District 22.
In December, one month before the proposal to close PS 25 was announced, the DOE proposed to move P.S. 361, an early childhood school, out of its building, and move it into P.S. 269, despite the fact that the EIS predicted that this move would overcrowd PS 269 building up to 102%. The
school would also likely lose its science room, its space for ESL
services, and more. All this, despite the fact that PS 269 is already a
struggling “priority” school according to the state, and as a Community
school, receives “wraparound” services from DOE. The entire building
K864/K869 will be given over to Success for its new East Flatbush middle school next fall.
Following her rally at City Hall, Eva has continued her campaign to insert her building into PS 25. She has written Chancellor Carranza
, claimed that the DOE “ took away our school building”, and demanded that he meet with “the
Committee to Save SA Lafayette Middle School, a group comprised of
parents and educators whose children were evicted by City Hall from
Success Academy Lafayette Middle School in Building K025
Note that word evicted, once again; though there was never a Success
Academy Lafayette Middle School, it was never sited in Building K025,
and once PS 25’s closure was halted by the court, the only school that
was supposed to be evicted would be Success Bed Stuy 3, which Eva
planned to move out to make way for her middle school.
The press release claimed, once again unconvincingly, that “Officials
could fix this problem with the stroke of a pen, yet they’ve refused to
do so for purely political reasons.” She added:
Many of the parents in the
Committee have children who attend or have graduated from Success
Academy Cobble Hill, a diverse elementary school that has suffered the
impacts of the DOE’s inaction….…Success
Academy Cobble Hill has a student body that is “33% Hispanic, 27%
black, 10% Asian, 24% white, and 6% multiracial… about half receive free
or reduced price lunch.”
So let us take a look at the stats of Success Academy Cobble Hill elementary school, as neatly laid out in the DOE performance dashboard
In every respect, the need level of Success Cobble Hill students less
than PS 25’s -- and less, for that matter than the students at Bed Stuy
3, that Eva had planned to move to make way for her new middle school
At 12 percent, the percentage of Cobble Hill’s disabled students is only about half of the citywide average. It has a lower economic need index than average and far fewer English language learners. Its impact rating is high at .89 – but not as high as PS 25’s at .93.
Moreover, the demographic snapshot
for Success Cobble Hill elementary school suggests a significant rate of attrition at the school. In 2013, there were 105 1st
graders, with that number falling to only 68 fifth graders this year.
Compare the student composition of PS 25
: last year 85 percent of students were economically disadvantaged, and this year 99 percent are in poverty, according to the DOE’s demographic snapshot
. In every respect they are needier than the city average.
its total enrollment is small, PS 25 does not appear to be losing
significant numbers of students over time, unlike SA Cobble Hill.
There is little information on the dashboard
for students at Success Bed Stuy 3, whom Eva was prepared to move out the building, or “evict”, to make way for her more “diverse” middle school.
Yet the DOE demographic snapshot also shows that the poverty level of
Bed Stuy 3 has dramatically increased from 52.4% to 74.3% this year. Perhaps
that’s why Eva is so eager to displace its students, to provide room
for the more advantaged (though yes, diverse) Success Academy Cobble
In any case, Eva continues to regularly send out press releases
and is currently engaged in a petition campaign, urging the Mayor and the chancellor to give into her demands. Reporters
continue to run stories about her claims, though none of them have
pointed out the absurdity of her repeated use of the term “evicted”,
even as she is content to entertain the prospect that other students,
including the students of PS 25 and the students of Success Bed Stuy 3,
should be moved elsewhere to make space for her middle school. And no reporters have yet challenged the questionable legality of her prior if secret agreement with DOE.
When PS 25 parents learned of
the judge’s decision, they were thrilled, and its teachers were
ecstatic. A little boy who attends the school later told me that while
he had cried when he heard that the school was closing, he was so happy
when he heard it would stay open for another year. Please send a letter
to Chancellor Carranza to rescind the DOE’s decision to close PS 25 and
allow the school to grow by putting a PreK and a 3K class in the school
for next year.