Charter School Space: Free of Rent, Maybe, but Not of Hurdles
Here's Winerip's latest column, which I assume will appear in tomorrow's NYT. Instead of his usual smears against all charters, this time he goes after the biggest charter networks in NYC, especially Eva Moskowitz and the Success Charter Network, for supposedly benefitting from favoritism relative to one-off charter schools in the city:
Rent is not something charter chains worry about. KIPP, the nation's biggest (99 schools) and richest ($160 million in corporate grants over the last four years) chain, pays no rent for its seven charter schools in the city. Nor does Eva Moskowitz, who has opened seven Success Academy charters in Harlem and the Bronx. Achievement First has 10 charters in Brooklyn that do not pay rent, and Uncommon Schools has 12. Citywide, 67 percent of chain charters receive free space in public school buildings, compared with 51 percent of independent schools.
The first sentence had my jaw in the floor: "Rent is not something charter chains worry about." I know with 100% certainty that finding space is a NIGHTMARE for EVERY charter school in NYC! So on what basis does Winerip assert this absurd lie?! Apparently this factoid that he must be so proud of finding: "Citywide, 67 percent of chain charters receive free space in public school buildings, compared with 51 percent of independent schools." But by itself, this statistic doesn't prove bias toward charter schools that are part of CMOs; perhaps they're applying for schools in areas in which there is more space available (which, in fact, the article alludes to). Or maybe they're more effective in working with the bureaucracy? But maybe there is bias – but if it's the right kind of bias, then we should be celebrating it. Maybe the CMOs have, overall, more of a proven track record of delivering for kids? Could the DOE under Klein have actually have had a preference, in awarding space, for schools that were being launched by people and organizations that had consistent track record of delivering spectacular schools for children?! I sure as hell hope so!!! This is apparently a high crime, according to nitwits like Winerip.
At least Winerip includes this quote from Seth Andrew (a thin veneer of impartiality that I suspect his editor forced upon him):
Seth Andrew, founder of three Democracy Prep charter schools, has some of the best middle-school test scores in the city, along with an extraordinary demand for places in his schools — 5,000 have applied for 250 seats. He would like all his classrooms in public buildings, but half are in private space, which costs him about $1 million a year.
Mr. Andrew believes space is so hard to get because the state's charter law creates too many barriers and provides no funding for finding sites for charters; the teachers' union repeatedly files lawsuits delaying the process; and the city's response to space requests is slow. "Good schools, bad schools, big networks, standalone schools" face the same hurdles, he said.
Lastly, it's almost comical to see Winerip try to create a scandal out of some emails between Klein and Moskowitz (ones that have been public for a LONG time, by the way). He fishes through dozens (hundreds?) of emails to find the most sinister emails – and comes up with bupkis. Eva wishes him happy birthday and this is evidence of their close relationship that leads to favorable treatment?! Winerip is so pathetic… At least he included this final line of his article (again, no doubt forced upon him by his editor):
Asked whether he did special favors because of a close relationship with Ms. Moskowitz, Mr. Klein wrote, "I say with neither pride nor regret that I am not personally close to Eva. Our relationship was entirely professional. We worked together to support things that I believed were in the best interests of our kids, and at times, she was a complete pain in my neck."