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.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.