Success Academy Pre-K Dispute Opens Debate about Increased Charter Oversight
DI CARLI: It’s 7:25 am and parents are rushing their children to school in the Upper West Side. Karla Chrzanowski’s son Ames is in 3rd grade at Success Academy. And in the back of her mind, she knows she only has a few weeks to decide where her youngest son Everest will attend Pre-K next fall. Until now Success Academy was in her options.
But Mayor de Blasio has withheld funding from the network because CEO Eva Moskowitz declined to sign a contract that grants the City oversight last fall.
Karla is not too happy with the Mayor.
CHRZANOWSKI: Mr. de Blasio, I think you have a lot to learn about what Success Academy can do for all kids, providing a quality education for kids across the spectrum and that rather than trying to be threatened by what the school is doing and trying to control it. I think you would be better served to learn from it and offer that kind of service to all kids in the city. They deserve it.
DI CARLI: Many parents share her frustration. Tens of thousands signed a petition to express outrage that the Mayor would put a roadblock on on an otherwise streamlined path to universal Pre-K.
Despite mounting criticism, the Mayor stood his ground at a press conference this week.
DE BLASIO: Every other organization has willingly signed the contract…But if this particular charter network does not want to sign the contract, you know, we have to draw a line there.
DI CARLI: Eva Moskowitz argued that the document was illegal and would entangle its Pre-K classes in bureaucratic red tape.
That leaves over two thousand applicants for Success Academy’s Pre-K in limbo, and next week, Department of Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia will choose who to support: the City or The Charter network.
But this goes much deeper than a playground turf war. It’s impossible to tell the story of this feud, without mentioning Success Academy’s controversial record.
Founded a decade ago, this Charter network attracted criticism last month, when a video emerged of a teacher berating a student who struggled with a math problem. And last fall Success was criticized for not accommodating special needs students. A former parent at Success Academy, Fatima Geidi said that in her experience, when you file a complaint against the charter to its oversight body, SUNY.
GEIDI: What happens is SUNY will send it back to the school to investigate themselves …And then the school will never get back to you with what their investigation was, what the outcome was. And then you would have to start over completely.
DI CARLI: But maybe it’s not about pointing fingers at Success Academy and SUNY. Zakiya Ansari advocacy director for high-quality public school education wants to place all charter schools, which are publicly-funded and privately-run, under scrutiny.
ANSARI: Eva Moskowitz is not the only one. The issue of privatization, the issue of charters is just that. There is no accountability.
DI CARLI: Several regent members raised questions this week about how to enforce accountability in charter oversight.
James Merriman at the head of New York City Charter School Center says it’s not so simple. He said increasing oversight would defeat the purpose for why charters were created in the first place. He said to remember that
MERRIMAN: We did not start the whether it’s a school or a social service agency to get perfect oversight. We started it to deliver a service.
DI CARLI: All of which only adds to the heightened tension as both sides await the Commissioner’s decision. Gilda Di Carli, Columbia Radio News.