Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Should Charters have to Obey their own Charter Law?

Just asking because apparently in NYC, there is a group of charters that is so against one mayoral candidate - Bill de Blasio - that their leader shut down all the schools, and told the parents they needed to come and march.

Charter law in NY State requires charters to pay for any city services or facilities at cost.  The Success Academy Charter School group - which has 22 schools in NYC, all co-located with a real public school - is upset that de Blasio and others want that law enforced.  From the NYC Public School Parents blog:

Arthur Schwartz, attorney with Advocates for Justice, who first filed a lawsuit on behalf of public school and charter school parents on this issue in 2011, says: “New York State Education Law requires that when a district provides space or services to a charter school it shall do so at cost.  Yet the DOE provides free space and services for more than 100 co-located charter schools.  Using figures from the NYC Independent Budget Office, we estimate that the space and services these charter schools currently receive is worth more than $100 million a year. A large chunk of that unfair subsidy goes to Success charters, which operates 22 schools across New York City, all of them co-located, with plans for seven more schools in 2014. Yet Success had an operating surplus of more than $23 million in 2012, and probably enjoys an even larger surplus this year.”  
So this charter chain is running in the black to the tune of $23M and yet doesn't want to pay for its share of a building.   And the overall school system loses more than $100M a year. 
The CEO of Success Academy, Eva Moskowitz, told her 4600 parents they needed to rally before the mayoral election.  So she closed all the schools - on a school day - so they could march the kids across the Brooklyn Bridge (and the parents were supposed to come and accompany them).  Can you imagine if a real public school did this?
From the article:
"This 'protest march' is yet another example of separate and unequal treatment afforded to charters, especially Eva Moskowitz's Success Charters," says Noah Gotbaum, a public school parent of three and a Vice President of Community Education Council District 3 on the Upper West Side and Harlem. "Success claims its schools are public, but what other public school could close their doors and demand that its parents and students attend a political rally? What other public school could sue the State Comptroller to avoid the transparency of a state audit?  And what other public school could use our tax dollars to pay its CEO almost $500,000 per year?
You might ask, so how did Success Academy get away with not paying?  One name - Michael Bloomberg.
Washington State charter law says that districts have to share space if there is any available at public school buildings, at or BELOW market rates.  


Karen said...

This is really interesting. The comments under the NYT article are great. It sure seems like a lot of people have figure out some charters are a scam. Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

And "space" is not very well defined. Many of the charter schools "co-located" within the PS buildings have bumped out special Ed rooms, access to the gym (if they have one) and carved out their own portion of the playground, with their own equipment paid for by their profits. Public school students are NOT allowed to use the charter equipment. Separate but unequal, that's the public school and private charter system in NY, with charters on the decidedly higher profit and benefit level, although they make damn sure the teachers never see those profits or benefits. Eva Moscowitz pulls in a 6 figure salary at least as the figurehead of her (un)Success Academies, where test prep is the name of the game.
But DFER thinks this is FABULOUS! for WA State.


Charlie Mas said...

"Washington State charter law says that districts have to share space if there is any available at public school buildings, at or BELOW market rates."

I should double-check, but that's not the way I remember the law.

I recall the law saying that districts were allowed to lease surplus school space to charters at below market rent or even for free. This would normally be a violation of the state law that precludes gifts of state property to private entities.

As I remember my reading of the law neither the lease nor the waived rent were required, just allowed.

This is, of course, one of the potentially unconstitutional elements of the law and will be part of the inevitable Supreme Court review. What's the schedule for that anyway? Ah, one more thing for me to look up.

Charlie Mas said...

Yep, here it is. From the full text of the initiative:

Page 31:"(3) A charter school may negotiate and contract with a school district, the governing body of a public college or university, or any other public or private entity for the use of a facility for a school building at or below fair market rent."

"(5) A conversion charter school as part of the consideration for providing educational services under the charter contract may continue to use its existing facility without paying rent to the school district that owns the facility."

I can't find any recent news on the current status of the constitutional challenge to I-1240

Charlie Mas said...

I'm not really sure how to interpret the word "may" in a law. It neither prohibits nor requires an action, but it doesn't say who has the right to exercise the option.

I took it to mean that rent for charter schools is subject to negotiation between the charter school organization and the building owner. There is no requirement that the building be leased at a cost below fair market, only an exemption from the prohibition of public gifts to private entities.