NYC schools chancellor pulls charter school proposals before vote

Kristin Thorne Image
Friday, March 3, 2023
NYC schools chancellor pulls charter school proposals before vote
Success Academy proposed charter schools in three district schools, which according to the department of education have a total of 2,562 empty seats.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- With only five weeks to go until the school lottery in New York City, thousands of parents who want to apply to three new charter schools are waiting to see if the city will find new locations for the schools after the schools chancellor pulled the proposed locations from a planning agenda in January.

Success Academy had proposed creating charter schools in three existing district schools, which according to the data for the city department of education have a total of 2,562 empty seats.

The charter schools would be co-located with Catherine and Count Basie Middle School and Redwood Middle School in Rochdale, at the Richard Green group of schools in Williamsbridge and at an educational complex in Springfield Gardens, which currently houses Preparatory Academy for Writers, Queens Preparatory Academy, Excelsior Preparatory High School and George Washington Carver High School for the Sciences.

According to data from the city Department of Education, the schools in Rochdale have 765 empty seats, the schools in Williamsbridge have 922 empty seats and in Springfield Gardens the schools have 875 empty seats.

According to the data, there are 170,812 empty seats in schools across New York City.

Success Academy CEO and Founder, Eva Moskowitz, said in the 17 years of opening charter schools in New York City, she has never had proposals for new schools pulled so close to the end game.

"These parents - thousands of them - were expecting these three schools and then 48 hours they were yanked down," she said in an interview with Eyewitness News investigative Reporter Kristin Thorne.

Moskowitz said Success has 46 other co-located charter schools across the city. The three new charter schools would have served a total of approximately 1,500 students.

After a year of planning, including community meetings, school meetings and building walkthroughs, the city's Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) was set to vote on the three charter schools on January 25.

But, on January 23, the city Schools Chancellor David Banks announced the proposals were being removed from the agenda.

Banks wrote in a statement, "After hearing from community members throughout this entire process that the proposals would create significant challenges for the news schools and the co-located schools, the Success Academy proposals involving buildings X113 in District 11, Q420 in District 29, and Q072 in District 28 have been removed from this week's PEP agenda. We are committed to continue to work with Success Academies to find suitable facilitates for their new schools, as we are required to do by law."

A spokesperson for the department of education told Eyewitness News the community had raised concerns about space usage in the buildings.

"There is plenty of space in these proposed sites," Moskowitz said. "We were not taking away a single room from the district school."

Perla Hidalgo, of Williamsbridge, was hoping to apply to the new Success Academy charter school in Williamsbridge for her daughter who will be in kindergarten next year.

Hidalgo said she was disappointed when she heard the charter school proposal had been pulled.

"Cause you do want to have different options when looking for a place to send your child to," she said. "My options limited now."

U.S. Congressman Jamaal Bowman (D-Mount Vernon) on Twitter called the proposal to put a charter school in Building X113 in Williamsbridge "absolutely outrageous."

"As a former educator & principal of a middle school in the same district as X113, I've seen up close how the educators there have done a tremendous job serving their students and families," he wrote in the January 13 post. "I've also seen how charter schools can harm students, educators and traditional public schools in our communities. We can't let that happen at X113."

Moskowitz said the department of education says it is working to try to find other locations for the schools, which the department also told Eyewitness News.

"In their defense, they're working on alternatives," she said. "But working on and delivering are two different things."

Moskowitz said she has been engaging in discussions with the department of education, but nothing has materialized.

The school lottery is April 4.

"I am making a plea to the powers that be that we got to get this done very, very quickly," she said.

Current Success Academy parents are hoping they can help speed the process along and said they have been writing emails and calling the department of education to express their disappointment in the last-minute pulling of the three proposals.

"I was, like, very distraught when I heard about it," parent Horeatta Brown said.

"If we have a seat at the table, our children are experience it, why can't others?" parent Cinnamon Paltoo asked.

"Parents need choices," parent Efrem Barriteau said.

Other parents are concerned the move is signaling a renewed anti-charter movement.

"My biggest concern is the path that we're going down now with the anti charter movement that our network may not be able to continue providing at this level of quality," parent Thaddeus Pyfrom said.

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