New York City parents charge that Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies are underenrolled and should be placed on probation instead of awarded 14 new charters.
Here is the parents’ press release:
EMBARGOED UNTIL 12:30 PM, WEDS OCT 8, 2014
Brooke Dunn Parker
646 543 4492 firstname.lastname@example.org
Noah E. Gotbaum
917 658 3213 email@example.com
Empty Seats, Phony “Waitlists,” and a Shocking Lack of Oversight: Newly Uncovered Charter Enrollment Data Sparks Parent Leaders to Demand Moratorium on ALL Charter Approvals Until SUNY & Charters Are Audited; Insist on Immediate Probation for Out-of-Compliance Success Academies
Data Shows Failure to Meet Mandated Enrollment Targets at More Than Two Thirds of Success Academy Charter Schools—and No Consequences from the SUNY Charter Institute and Trustees Charged with Charter School Oversight
Local public school parents have unearthed evidence that more than two-thirds of Success Academy charter schools were under-enrolled in 2013-14, rendering the charter chain’s oft touted claims of “high demand” and “waitlists” demonstrably false. Four of the schools were so profoundly under-enrolled that SUNY, which in its role as overseer of the state’s charter schools is charged with closing schools that fall below 80% of their targeted enrollment, would have been legally obliged to take action. Yet none of the under-enrolled Success Academies were even placed on probation—a clear dereliction of duty on SUNY’s part.
This revelation is particularly egregious as it coincides with today’s expected rubberstamp vote by the SUNY Trustees to approve 17 more charter schools, 14 of which are new Success Academies.
In the face of this evidence of massive under-enrollment and of SUNY’s lack of accountability, elected parent leaders from the city’s Community Education Councils are gathering on the steps of Tweed Courthouse together with fellow public school parent activists*, City Council Education Chair Daniel Dromm, and additional City Council members to publicly address the SUNY Charter Institute and Trustees with an important question:
Why are you authorizing the opening of more charter schools, and in particular Success Academies, when the evidence shows that Success cannot even fill seats in its existing schools?
The parents assembled are calling for:
· a full and independent investigation of SUNY to ascertain that the charter authorizer is adhering to the law
· an independent audit by the NYC Comptroller of the enrollment, attrition, suspension and expulsion rates, particularly for high-needs students, at all charter schools to determine how widespread missed (legally mandated) targets are
· a moratorium on all new charter approvals, renewals, and expansions until the above investigation and audits are completed
· immediate probation for the four Success Academies under-enrolled by more than 20% (as is mandated by their charter agreements and by State law).
Kari Steeves, who self identifies as “Class Parent for Rm. 308,” described what drove parents to undertake the research, write a letter to the trustees and comptroller, and spend days organizing to get the word out: “We are real parents, on our own time and impetus, speaking for what NYC public school parents really want. We don’t want seats at a charter school, and these numbers show neither do the vast majority of parents. Charters are being foisted upon us without community input or request, and their low enrollment, especially as compared with the overcrowding of our schools, shows that we want the resources devoted to making room for all kids at public schools.”
Public school parent Brooke Parker, whose research through the School Construction Authority’s “Blue Book” brought the enrollment data to light, remarked, “This is just the tip of the iceberg. SUNY has knowingly withheld enrollment data for charter schools from the taxpaying public—even though taxpayer dollars bankroll charters. If we had open access to enrollment information, I am convinced that we would find that even more charter schools have been allowed to open, remain open, and even expand despite their inability to meet enrollment targets. That’s outrageous. And illegal.”
Naila Rosario, president of Brooklyn’s Community Education Council 15, added, “I was already concerned that marketing might be what was creating so-called charter ‘demand.’ After all, our bus stops and subway stations are plastered with ads for charters; our mailboxes overflow with their glossy brochures. Now it seems that even with all that marketing, Success couldn’t fill its seats. By contrast, the waitlist for my child’s school, like those of many other district public schools, is ridiculously long and REAL.”
The discovery that SUNY has concealed important enrollment data and authorized out-of-compliance charter management organizations to open still more schools is the latest in a string of abuses of the public trust. Just last week, a Daily News reporter revealed that the charter authorizers had allowed a Michigan-based charter operator to overcharge the city by $250K for rent for a single Brooklyn school. And there has long been evidence that charters do not serve the students they are required to by law, particularly English language learners and special needs students.
Miriam Farer, who serves on Upper Manhattan’s Community Education Council 6, declared, “I applaud the parents who dug up this information, but let’s get real. It is not the job of parents and reporters to keep SUNY honest. I join with other public school parents and community leaders to demand that Comptroller Scott Stringer investigate the SUNY charter school authorizers, whom we believe to have violated the public trust by failing to safeguard precious education tax dollars. We also demand a moratorium on new charter school approvals, renewals, and expansions until SUNY has proven that it is not breaking the law and all schools are equitably funded.”
Some highlights from the research (sources on attached Fact Sheet):
• Of the 18 Success Academy charter schools open in the 2013-14 school year, more than two thirds (13) were under-enrolled.
• On average, schools in the SA network were under-enrolled by 7.6%
• In 2013-14 school year, 4 of SA’s 18 schools were severely under-enrolled—by 22%-33%:
Success Academy Charter School – Ft. Greene: -29%
Success Academy Charter School – Crown Heights: -22%
Success Academy Charter School – Hell’s Kitchen: -27%
Success Academy Charter School – Union Square: -33%
*including representatives from WAGPOPS!, Make The Road, and NYCpublic