Saturday, February 27, 2010

Anti-Charter Columnist's Eva Obsession Continues

Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez is obsessed with Eva Moskowitz, a former member of the New York City Council and now charter school founder and operator.

This obsession predates my postings on The Chalkboard, the first of which discussed this very topic in early March of last year (here). Mr. Gonzalez's problem then was that private sector folk chose to pay Ms. Moskowitz well for creating and operating a network of successful public schools. I'm not sure what price one puts on inner-city minority children learning and achieving better than they would have otherwise, but that joyful outcome is thankfully worth the investment to those who support the Success Charter Network.

I'm not aware of any establishment figure ever criticizing Bill Gates or the late Walter Annenberg for pouring millions of dollars into traditional public education, regardless of the outcome. But, invest in charter schools governed by a performance contract to improve student learning and achievement, and you'll receive unhealthy envy and scorn from the likes of Mr. Gonzalez, UFT boss Michael Mulgrew (here), and Harlem state Senator Bill Perkins, to name three - the consumate defenders of what Ms. Moskowitz describes as the "union-political-educational complex."

Mr. Gonzalez's latest column this week (here) pretends to have a smoking gun from email exchanges between Eva Moskowitz and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein regarding Ms. Moskowitz's efforts to secure more district space for the charter schools she operates through the Success Charter Network. The city last year unsuccessfully sought to close Public Schools 194 and 241 in Harlem due to the political pushback from the Chancellor's plan to locate charter schools in those spaces.

City Provides Buildings Becuase of No Charter Facilities Aid
Mr. Gonzalez mentions that New York City is "one of the few" that provide free space to--egads!-- public charter schools. But he fails to acknowledge the reason; that is, charter schools do not get facilities aid. This amounts to a funding inequity of between $3,017 (IBO) to $3,432 (DOE) per student based on separate analyses released this week respectively by the Independent Budget Office and the city Department of Education. For those charters located in district space, still there is a funding gap of between $305 (IBO) and $877 (DOE) less per charter student.

Dealing with Charters Co-locations and District School Closures
As for closing public schools, charter schools understand it's part of the bargain and the risk of operating. If charters do not fulfill their contractual and statutory obligations, they risk closure. District schools are not used to such accountability, with the latest DOE effort provoking a lawsuit by that bastion of no accountability, the United Federation of Teachers. So, here's two suggestions respectively to minimize district school closures and charter co-locations in DOE space:

1) Empower the Chancellor to directly remove the existing staff at a school slated for closure and and hire new staff for the school to operate outside the existing UFT collective bargaining agreement. The employee contacts should be replaced with with brand new ones from scratch; or, not exist at all so the school operates like most of the country: at-will employment. That way, parents attached to the neighborhood, zoned school will still have it to send their children but under new management and staff working in a new accountability structure conducive to a genuine and rapid improvment.

2) Charter schools should receive state facilities aid of at least $3,000 per student to invest in getting space privately or, if using DOE space, pay this facilities aid to the school district treasury as lease payments.

As long as neither of these approaches is in place, conflicts will continue and students will lose out in the current arrangements where chronically low-performing district schools remain and successful charters cannot expand.

Peter Murphy
for The Chalkboard
(see me Twitter @ PeterMurphy26 &
get "Chalkboard Nycsa" on Facebook)

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