New York City Mayor, Education Leader Battle Over Charter Schools

By Julissa Catalan

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has revoked the city’s offer of free school space for three of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Charter Schools, two of which were set to open this fall.

Moskowitz, a Harlem native and former City Council member, has declared that she will do whatever it takes to salvage the education of the 194 students enrolled in the third school, a middle school that must vacate its current Harlem location in June. De Blasio later said that he would find space for these students.

According to The New York Times, Moskowitz’s 22 Success Academy schools serve 6,700 students, 90 percent of whom are Black or Latino. One of the schools, a Harlem middle school founded in 2012 and currently serving fifth and sixth graders, boasts the highest passing rate on state exams anywhere in the Empire State, with 96 percent of the fifth-graders passing their state math exams last year.

All of Moskowitz’s academiesincluding locations in trendier neighborhoods like the Upper West Side of Manhattan and the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, where charter schools are a rarityhave consistently outscored traditional public schools on state tests. Last year, after new, more difficult tests were rolled out, 82 percent of Success Academy students passed the math exams, compared with 30 percent citywide. They also outperformed the city in the reading exams, 58 percent to 26 percent.

De Blasio said public-school programs for special-needs students and concerns about “placing elementary-school students with high-school students” were his reasons for withdrawing the available space, and insisted his decision is for the best interest of all students.

“Instead of shutting down an extremely high-performing school, I’d think that the mayor would want to focus on solving the education crisis,” Moskowitz said.

The two have had a decade-long history of animosity stemming from their days serving as council members and their opposing views on education.

Neither is showing signs of backing down.

“We’re considering all of our options,” Moskowitz said in an interview with the New York Daily News, before parents at one of Moskowitz’s schools filed a lawsuit against the city. “We’re hoping that maybe the governor can help us or the Assembly or the Senate.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told The Capital Pressroom, a show on Syracuse-based NPR station WCNY, that he is seeking a “legislative fix” to the issue and suggested that “technical” changes to the state law might have to be made to provide protection to charter schools.

“My personal philosophy is that we do want to support the charter-school movement and we want to see it increase,” the governor said.

Cuomo also spoke at Moskowitz’s pro-charter rally in Albanyan event that was executed with the help of the advocacy group Families for Excellent Schools and drew approximately 7,000 supporters.

That same day, de Blasio held his own rally, which drew only 1,000 attendees.

De Blasio maintains that he has approved 14 of 17 proposals to place charter schools in public-school space, five of which are run by Moskowitz. “By definition, we have shown an openness and a willingness to work with everyone,” he said. “And we continue to. We will work with charter schools.”

However, Moskowitz’s schools are the only ones he has canceled plans for, leaving all other charter schools unaffected.

Moskowitz has been quoted as saying “there is a 70 to 80 percent chance” she will be running for mayor in 2017.

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