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Parents Protest State Sending More Money to Controversial Charter School

By DNAinfo Staff on June 25, 2012 7:30pm

Juan Pagan and others protest against the proposal for increased funding for the Success Academy.
Juan Pagan and others protest against the proposal for increased funding for the Success Academy.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

MIDTOWN — Public school parents and local education advocates marched on the State University of New York's West 42nd Street office to protest a hike in per-student fees for controversial charter schools run by a former city councilwoman.

Success Academy Charter Schools, a corporation run by Eva Moskowitz, has reportedly asked the state for an increase in fees — from $1,350 to $2,000 for each pupil — at 10 of its 12 schools citywide.

SUNY is set to vote on Monday to determine whether to approve the additional fees, but critics say the rapidly-growing charter network has absorbed too much space and resources slated for public schools already, and want to see the state reject its request.

“The truth is that the State University of New York is not looking out for our children,” said Noah Gotbaum, former president of the District 3 Community Education Council and parent of three children in city public schools.

“We are here because we want all kids to have the resources that [Moskowitz’s] charter schools are getting,” said Gotbaum, who was among dozens of parents and protesters who rallied against Moskowitz’s charter schools at SUNY's School of Optometry at 33 W. 42nd St.

SUNY, which is responsible for overseeing charter schools, did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

Annual tax forms show that the Success Network has a combined end-of-year surplus for itself and its individual schools of more than $23.5 million, according to the New York Daily News. They also reported that the charter school operation has spent $3.4 million on marketing in a single year.

Judith deFour-Howard, a former middle school mathematics teacher at M.S. 4 in the Bronx, said Monday that she was not opposed to the charter school movement as a whole, but said she did not agree with the principles and direction of the Success Academy system.

“They’re giving a bad name to the whole charter movement,” she said. Currently, the Success Network has only nine schools open: two schools in the Bronx, one school in Brooklyn, and six schools in Manhattan, mostly in Harlem. As of August, 2012, three more schools are scheduled to open in Williamsburg, Cobble Hill, and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, according to the company's website.

Juan Pagan, of Lower Manhattan, whose 19-year old daughter is a special education student, said there was no room for his daughter in charter schools like the Success Academy.

Critics have have repeatedly blasted the charter schools for their lack of attention to special needs children and English Language Learners.

“These are the kids who are being affected the most,” Pagan said. “They are blatantly disregarded by [Mayor] Bloomberg and Eva Moskowitz.”

While SUNY has not responded on whether they have approved of the proposal or not, Success Academy founder Moskowitz has anticipated their decision, thanking the university board of trustees for allowing her to support her schools, she said in a statement.

"We are simply reallocating existing funds to improve the services we provide our schools, including teacher recruitment, teacher training and curriculum development," said Moskowitz, in a statement, maintaining that the charter school network would not be receiving any additional taxpayer dollars.

"Our schools' success bear out the success of our strategy," she added.