The Success Academy charter school network is attempting to co-locate another school in District 3, the school district that includes the Upper West Side. It’s part of an apparent last-minute push by the Bloomberg administration to add dozens more charters before the new mayor is elected. Success Academy, run by political lightning rod Eva Moskowitz, raised hackles when it opened Upper West Success in the Brandeis School on 84th street over wide community opposition (and a lawsuit) in 2011. Success has already co-located schools in six of District 3’s 20 schools.
The new Success Academy school would be located at PS 149 at 41 West 117th street, known as the Sojourner Truth School. Success already has some students there, but this would move students from the Success Academy Harlem 4 into the school on a permanent basis. Some students with special needs that are currently in the school will likely be moved into new schools specifically for kids with special needs, according to local education activist Noah Gotbaum, who has opposed the Success Academy proposals. He tells us: “DOE now proposes to co-locate Harlem Success Academy 4 middle school in the building, with an additional 350 students and cut 25% of 811 sections (about 20-30 kids) moving them to a new building to be designated somewhere in lower Manhattan. The new co-location will end up raising capacity in the 149 building from current 90+% to 130%. According to the DOE, capacity and enrollment at the Mickey Mantle campus on West End Avenue won’t be affected, but personally I think that’s a pipe dream as they have broken almost every promise they’ve made regarding previous co-locations.”
A hearing on the newest proposal is set for Thursday night at 6 p.m. at 34 West 118th street (M149) and there will be a press conference at 41 West 117th street at 5:15. Signup for public comments starts at 5:30 and ends 15 after the start of the hearing. A Department of Education description of the proposal is here.
Charter opponents say that co-location tends to hurt students in local public schools because it takes away space from neighborhood schools. The traditional public schools tend to educate more children with disabilities and those still learning English; because of the space crunch, kids with disabilities sometimes have receive services in hallways or closets, local parents say. Charter proponents say that their schools are essential to give parents more choices, and if they can’t co-locate they’ll have to cut seats.
Community Educational Council 3, the parent group that represents students on the UWS, issued a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter co-locations and for charters that are already co-located to pay rent. We have posted the text of the proposal below. A charter network made up of large charter networks like Success Academy protested the rent issue on Tuesday, holding a march to City Hall (many independent charter schools did not march, because of disagreements with the larger politically connected charter networks). Moskowitz closed the Success schools for the day so students and parents could march. Bill de Blasio has said he would charge rent to the wealthiest charter schools (those with the most private money) that are co-locating in city buildings if he becomes mayor.
Success Academy did not respond directly to the CEC3 proposal when we wrote to them, but a spokesman referred us to a press release from a group fighting the plans. It said, in part: “The proposals – a moratorium on co-location and charging public schools rent for space in public school buildings – limit school options for families that need them most. A moratorium would eliminate more than 15,000 new charter seats annually, and a rent charge—which district schools do not pay—would force charters to turn away 50,000 families on their combined waitlist.”