This whole district public school vs. charter public school—I don’t think parents think of it that way. I think they think of, 'I want a great school for my kid. Who’s got one? And how can I get my kid into that school?'That’s Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools, in an interview today in Chalkbeat. An alumna of New York City’s Stuyvesant High (New York City’s most prestigious public magnet school) and John Hopkins, where she earned a Ph.D. in American history, Moskowitz has long argued—often against Mayor Bill de Blasio and the United Federation of Teachers—that New York City’s traditional school system fails poor children. She opened her first public charter, Harlem Success Academy, in 2006. Now there are 41 schools serving 14,000 students in four of New York City’s five boroughs and she predicts that there will be 100 Success Academy schools in the next decade. Across the network, 76 percent of students are from low-income households; 8.5 percent are current and former English-language learners, 15 percent are current and former special needs students, and 93 percent of students are children of color. Here are a few highlights from the Chalkbeat interview.
They’re not harmful…What’s harmful are bad schools. But I don’t spend a lot of time on vouchers or even tax credits because I think charters are a faster way to get great schools in the hands of parents.
We’ve got to figure out a way to give parents the freedom to choose. I think that’s going to be very empowering and I think parents are far more sophisticated than we give them credit for.
It’s always dangerous to count on anything in Albany, so I don’t count on much of anything. But obviously, long-term, the cap would have to be lifted. And there is such parental demand that I don’t even think the strongest opponents are going to be able to resist. There are a lot of Assembly members who are supportive of charters. It’s a bipartisan issue. I really think it’s unions who are kind of left in their corner.
He’s very hostile. [And,] to date, we’ve had a mayor who is very reluctant to give charters space. So that’s going to be a limiting factor if we can’t change those policies and make it easier. I know quite a bit about this and have been working at this for almost two decades, and I find it very, very challenging.
Even if you’re explaining something like 3+2 equals 4+1, that equal sign and what that actually means is a kind of a profound mathematical concept. And that is, in a way, algebraic equation. And so, you need to have content mastery. And if you’re a kindergarten teacher or let’s say a third-grade teacher, you need to know where the kids have come from, what does K-2 look like? But you also have to have some idea content-wise of what middle school looks like. And you not only need that on the content side, but you need it on the child development side.
I can say that it is profoundly unfair and disingenuous for the unions to go to Albany every year asking for massive increases [in state funding for education] and for them to impose a freeze, which was scheduled to sunset this year. Why should a public charter kindergartner be worth less than a district kindergartner? I’m a parent and, in fact, I could be a parent of a district fifth-grader and a public charter kindergartner. I want my kids to get the same level of resources.
I supported Hillary Clinton, but when the election is over, I think it’s important to work with people across the aisle. And children and families, for them, the daily experience is not a partisan issue. It’s about great teaching and learning and the academic development and social and emotional development of their kid. So I think there’s a time for politicking and a time for governing.
Laura Waters is the founder and managing editor of New Jersey Education Report, formerly a senior writer/editor with brightbeam. Laura writes about New Jersey and New York education policy and politics. As the daughter of New York City educators and parent of a son with special needs, she writes frequently about the need to listen to families and ensure access to good public school options for all. She is based in New Jersey, where she and her husband have raised four children. She recently finished serving 12 years on her local school board in Lawrence, New Jersey, where she was president for nine of those years. Early in her career, she taught writing to low-income students of color at SUNY Binghamton through an Educational Opportunity Program.
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