on the offensive

Eva Moskowitz picks new fight with city over late payments

PHOTO: Geoff Decker
Eva Moskowitz at a parent rally in Albany in 2015

Eva Moskowitz is going after the de Blasio administration again — this time over timely payments to her charter schools.

The Success Academy CEO published a letter on the charter network’s website chastising the de Blasio administration for late payments to two of its schools. The public rebuke is the latest in a string of fights Moskowitz has picked with the de Blasio administration and one that, while relatively low-stakes on its own, draws attention to the network as it ramps up a legislative fight to raise the state’s cap on charter schools.

In the letter, Moskowitz wrote that nearly $2 million was due to Success Academy Harlem 3 on May 1 and has not yet been paid, and a $1.3 million payment to Success Academy Harlem 5 came days late. The money is the $13,777 per-student allocation funneled from the state to the city’s education department to charter schools, and spokeswoman for Success Academy said delayed payments were rare.

“The lack of explanation or even the courtesy of a response from DOE staff is baffling,” Moskowitz wrote. “Is this deliberate negligence or just dysfunction?”

Department officials said it was neither. Spokeswoman Devora Kaye said that payments are forthcoming and the city is “meeting all necessary protocols,” adding that an invoice for Success Academy Harlem 3 was submitted the Monday after the Friday it was due in April.

The letter’s sharp tone is typical of Moskowitz, who has been Mayor Bill de Blasio’s most prominent critic on education policy. The strategy has worked well for Success Academy, most notably after de Blasio nixed plans for three of her schools to operate in public school buildings last year. Moskowitz’s protest campaign resulted in a deal for free private space worth more than $5 million last year and, at the state level, legislation forcing the city to pay other charter schools’ rent bills in the future.

Last December, the city agreed to co-locate 10 new Success schools in public space. And Moskowitz was confident enough to taunt the mayor at an event Monday night, where Capital New York reported that she joked about possibly taking “a victory lap around Central Park in a horse-drawn carriage,” which de Blasio promised to ban during his mayoral campaign.

“Perhaps we should have a cap on the district schools,” she said.

The letter also comes as the city’s charter schools’ finances are under increasing scrutiny, and as Success continues to bring in millions in private fundraising at flashy fundraising events. Comptroller Scott Stringer is currently auditing the Success network, and City Council education committee chair Daniel Dromm sent a letter to charter-school operators in February asking them to send in audit documents.

The letter serves as a vehicle for Moskowitz — who has said she would like to run for mayor — to portray herself as unwilling to compromise on efficiency. She has cultivated that image for years, stretching back to her time leading marathon meetings of the City Council’s education committee about union contracts.

“Our opponents, who are ceaseless in their quest to find fault in our operations, would like nothing more than for us to be delinquent in our own financial obligations,” Moskowitz wrote.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”