A researcher who has followed the issues in New York state closely submitted the following analysis of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s views on charter schools. The researcher has requested anonymity; he has documented his review. The sources are nonpartisan and unimpeachable.  This is recommended reading for all journalists and citizens. Forgive the formatting.


Just the other day, we saw two competing visions for public education clash in Albany. Mayor Bill de

Blasio spoke at a rally in support of a real plan for universal pre-K for children. Governor Andrew Cuomo

spoke at a rally in support of the continued expansion and extra funding of charter schools.

The evidence supports only one of these visions. The evidence shows that the charter sector does not do

a better job than public schools, even narrowing our frame of reference to test scores. On the other hand,

the evidence is clear that universal pre-K is the most effective educational policy lever in helping to close

the achievement gap.

Let’s take a look at Governor Cuomo’s remarks to see how well he met the 11th-12th

grade Speaking and Listening Common Core Standards, of which he is so fond.

How well did he perform on “presentation of knowledge and ideas?”


Cuomo’s claim: “this is the most important civics lesson you will learn, because this is democracy and

this is how you make your voice heard. And we are here today to tell you that we stand with you. You are

not alone; we will save charter schools.”

The facts: The rally for charter schools was not a function of democracy. Charter schools cancelled

school for the day and bussed parents and students to Albany. Public school children remained in school.

Democracy would have required that both charter AND public schools be cancelled for the day and that

busses be provided for both charter AND public school students and parents. Only then would we know if

more parents and children support or oppose the continued expansion of charter school. Only then would

the voice of the people have been heard. But New York City Department of Education Regulation D-130

prohibits such blatant political activity “if such visit may disrupt the educational school environment.”

Charter schools do not, of course, follow such rules, even though they receive public money. If this

were not enough anti-democratic behavior the Daily News reported that “sources with knowledge of the

situation say Cuomo urged charter school advocates to turn out for the pro-charter rally.”


Cuomo’s claim: “education is not about the districts and not about the pensions and not about the unions

and not about the lobbyists and not about the PR firms – education is about the students, and the students

come first.”

The facts: It is Cuomo who is influenced by lobbyists at the expense of the true interests of students.

Recent investigative reporting uncovered that “Cuomo’s reelection bid has so far received nearly

$400,000 from a cadre of wealthy supporters of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Charter School

network, according to an updated tally of newly-released campaign filings. Some money has even come

from Moskowitz’s political action committee, Great Public Schools, which has given $65,000 to Cuomo

since 2011… By one tally of the 2014 filings, Cuomo racked up at least $800,000 in donations from

27 bankers, real estate executives, business executives, philanthropists and advocacy groups who have

flocked to charter schools and other education causes in recent years.”


Cuomo’s claims: “We know that too many public schools are failing. Over 200 failing schools – 6%

grade level for reading, 5% grade level for math.

The facts: We know no such thing. We do know that the Board of Regents changes cut scores at

will to make it appear that students and schools are failing. For example from 2011 until 2013 out of

286 possible point combinations on the English Language Arts Regents exam an average of 74 point

combinations resulted in a passing grade. Then, in June of 2013, the number of point combinations

leading to a passing grade was dramatically lowered by 23%. Since then an average of 63 point

combinations out of 286 leads to a passing grade. We also know that New York State’s identification of

failing (a.k.a. “Priority”) schools is statistical nonsense. One researcher found that “Priority” schools have

150% more free lunch students, 300% more Black students, 175% more Hispanic students, and 200%

more English Language Learners than schools in “Good Standing.” We don’t have very many failing

schools. We do have many students who need and deserve more support. Which brings us to Cuomo’s

next claim.


Cuomo’s claim: “The education industry has said the same thing for decades: more money, and more

money, and more money, and it will change. We spend more money per pupil than any state in the nation;

we’re number 32 in results. It’s not just about putting more money in the public school system, it’s trying

something new and that’s what charter schools are all about.”

The facts: The irony here is that charter schools in New York City, especially those that belong to the

charter chains that showed up to protest, spend much more per student than public schools. One analysis

has shown that, compared to similar public schools, Success Academy spends $2,072 more per student

and KIPP spends a whopping $5,359 more per student. New York State’s own data show that the “Good

Standing” schools receive 75% more foundation aid per student than the “Priority” schools. Cuomo’s

numbers just don’t add up.


Cuomo’s claim: “Now not every charter school has been great, but overall they have been a great success

– like Success Academy in the South Bronx. The third best results in the state; give yourselves a round

of applause. That’s why 50,000 parents are on the waiting list, and our point today is parents deserve a


The facts: Success Academy has become a lightning rod in this debate. So let’s review the numbers

on their Harlem schools, the only schools in the Success Academy network that have been around for

more than a couple of years. Last year’s 7th grade class at Harlem Success Academy 1 had a 52.1%

attrition rate since 2006-07. Last year’s 6th grade class had a 45.2% attrition rate since 2006-07. The

data show that this attrition is selective. For example, the attrition rate of special education students and

English Language Learners is over 60% in some cohorts in the space of just 3 years. All test outcomes

are meaningless when a school gets rid of so many kids. The Harlem Success Academies had an average

17.5% suspension rate as compared to an overall 8% in Harlem public schools. This is another way to

encourage challenging students to leave.

Harlem Success Academies have 50% fewer English Language Learners, 40% fewer special education

students overall, 1,400% fewer of the highest need special education students (and no this is not a typo),

15% fewer free lunch students, and an economic need index (a measure of students in temporary housing

and/or who receive public assistance) that is 35% lower than nearby public schools.

Even so barely more than half of their students were “proficient” on the last English exam and their

growth scores lagged peer schools by over 10 percentage points. They scored in the 39th percentile on

English exam growth for their overall student population and in the 21st percentile on English exam

growth for the students who began with scores in the lowest 1/3 of students citywide. The media likes to

tout Success Academy’s Math exam scores which were a bit better (and are easier to test prep for than the

writing required on English exams). But again, when you kick out students who get low test scores it is

not surprising that test scores go up.


Cuomo’s claim: “I am committed to ensuring charter schools have the financial capacity, the physical

space, and the government support to thrive and to grow.”

The facts: de Blasio has already stated that he will charge only those charter schools who can afford it

rent fees when they use public space. Success Academy for example had “at least $30.9 million in total,

end-of-year assets.” Here is a report on what happens to public schools when charter schools, using

examples from the Success Academy network, are given physical space in public buildings.

“P.S. 123 had already struggled during its first co-location, with Success Academy Harlem 2 (SAH2),

that began in 2008. Three years later, Success Academy Harlem 5 (SAH5) entered the building, taking

SAH2’s place (which had to move to another location because of, ironically, lack of space), located on

the third floor. Because of this co-location, P.S. 123 has lost three rooms and several programs, and is

slated to lose three additional classrooms in September of 2012.One of the key losses was a GED program

that catered to adults 19 years old or older, which provided the school with the opportunity to educate

both children and adult community members in the same facility. The school also lost the use of their

computer room and had the library divided into cubicles, which limits student’s library time. The school

lost its SAVE room (see footnote #41), which are required by state law, and for P.S. 123 means disruptive

students simply remain in the class. In addition, students do not have enough time to take their state

exams. Students in the lower grades will have to either go outside or sit in the auditorium while the older

students are taking their exams. Due to the limited space, only certain classes at P.S. 123 are permitted

to use the gym. As a result, the school does not have a structured physical education program. There

is not enough room for the students to have an art program. The school is unable to achieve the 12:1:1

classroom ratio for students who have an Individualized Education Program. Speech and occupational

therapy are conducted in cubicles instead separate rooms. Additionally, students in Kindergarten through

Second grade have lunch at 10:30 a.m. SAH5 has air conditioning in all their, classrooms but few of the

air conditioners in P.S. 123 work properly.”

“Despite the fact that SAH4 has not yet reached full capacity, observers found significant inequities

in space between the school and STEM during a walk-through of the two schools… STEM [Science

Technology Engineering and Math Institute, a public school] has one science lab compared to SAH4’s

three rooms. STEM has no art room —only an art cart (Figure 1]. On the other hand, SAH4’s art room is

state-of-the-art [Figure 2]… STEM has a shared one-quarter of a classroom that had previously been for

janitorial use. It has been revamped for the use of both speech and ELL services. At times, these classes

are conducted at the same time, making it difficult for students to focus. SAH4 has its own dedicated

speech room, which is used fewer than five hours a week…STEM has a one-quarter classroom that

serves 20 self-contained special-education students, despite the fact that the classroom has capacity for

only ten students [see Figure 3]. Occupational and physical therapy for STEM students is provided in the

library or hallway. SAH4 has its own Dance Room [see Figure 4]… At one point, STEM’s Kindergarten

through 2th grade classrooms were located in the basement. Unfortunately, the basement provided only

a janitorial toilet. Since STEM students are not permitted to use the SAH4 bathrooms and are prohibited

from SAH4’s assigned floors, STEM students were required to walk from the basement to the second

floor, and then back down a different set of stairs to the first floor STEM bathroom, so as to not cross

through SAH4 space.”

“SAH2 has four science labs. P.S. 30 has one science lab. Their state-of-the-art science lab, renovated

in 1990s after a grant from Mayor David Dinkins, was lost to SAH2. In only half of a classroom, P.S. 30

has seven service providers who furnish occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, hearing

services, and tutoring [Figure 7]. SAH2 has a speech room, two psychology rooms, an occupational

therapy room, seven administrative offices, and a generic conference room. In addition, SAH2 has its own

karate room, chess room and block room [Figures 8 through 11].”

“Specifically, with the HSA [Harlem Success Academy] expansion, the students at P.S./M.S. 149 have

lost: A fully equipped music room, instruments and a program; A state-mandated SAVE room where

students who are disrupting their classrooms have a chance to work on their studies without disrupting

other students; A computer lab, capable of servicing an entire class at a time; Individual rooms for

occupational and physical therapy (a speech teacher is servicing students in the library); and The English

Language Learners (ELL) classroom (student are sometimes are serviced in the library or non-teaching

spaces). Additionally, hallways in the school are extremely overcrowded, and the middle school students

are prohibited from using the stairwell that exists directly across from their classrooms — which is very

problematic during fire drills, and is a safety hazard.”

“Already co-located with Fredrick Douglass Academy II, in the summer of 2012 Wadleigh was preparing

to be joined by a Success Academy Harlem West (SAHW) charter school in the fall. During the

negotiations for the co-location, Wadleigh was promised 29 classrooms, but received only 20. The school

lost rooms for small group tutoring and administration, and guidance counselors have been forced to

hold confidential conversations with students behind partitions. Upgrades for the incoming SAHW —

including painting doors and walls —began while Wadleigh students were attempting to prepare for their

Regents exam, and administrators were given a short deadline for packing up materials in rooms that were

to be taken over by the SAHW in the fall, despite the fact that school was in session and would be so for

another month.”


The evidence is clear. Cuomo has misrepresented the evidence and the facts. He receives a grade of well- below proficient on the following Common Core Standards: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1a  (“Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation

by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful,

well-reasoned exchange of ideas. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1c. Propel conversations by posing and

responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions

on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative

perspectives. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1d Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize

comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and

determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete

the task. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence,

conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative

or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are

appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.

It is time for Governor Cuomo to go back to school.

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