Part of the marketing technique of Success Academy is to recruit, recruit, recruit, so that there is overwhelming number of applicants. In my neighborhood–which is upscale–Eva Moskowitz opened a charter and suddenly there were posters advertising for students on every bus stop and available spot in the neighborhood. When she first opened in Harlem, she spent $325,000 on a marketing campaign, which produced demand and enabled her to say that she needed more schools. The other virtue of having 10 applicants for every seat is that the network is able to screen out the students they don’t want.

 

This year, the number of applications declined, but there was still–SA reported–a large number of applications for every seat.

 

The network has some legal problems, as well as a year of bad PR:

 

A series of New York Times reports highlighting controversial discipline policies attracted national attention — much of it negative — to a network that had previously been heralded as a national model by education reform advocates. The first Times report shed light on a school with a “got to go” list of unruly students, a second contains a video showing a teacher ripping up a child’s paper for not understanding a math problem. A PBS News report also documented the network’s practice of suspending children as young as kindergarten.

 

The investigations soon followed.

 

Most notably, the federal Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights is looking into a complaint filed by former Success parents alleging that the network discriminates against students with special needs and, in some cases, tries to counsel them out of Success schools.

 

Public Advocate Letitia James is conducting a similar investigation in New York City, and comptroller Scott Stringer has pledged to audit the network’s finances. Mayor Bill de Blasio, one of Moskowitz’s longtime political foes, has become more emboldened in his public criticism of the network, after losing an early battle with Moskowitz over school space.

 

The charter industry has played fast and loose with waiting list stories. You have to take their word for how many applicants there are. Often a family will apply to 3 or 4 different charters, and they are on the wait list for all. Others have kept wait lists that include children who applied in earlier years.

 

There are days when I think that Eva should become chancellor so she can show her ability to work her magic for all children, not just the ones who are accepted into SA.