April 7, 2009
In her first appearance before the City Council committee that she used to chair, controversial charter school operator Eva Moskowitz today warned members of the council about the dangers of what she called the “union-political-educational complex.”
Moskowitz was referring to what she has said is interference by the teachers union in the Department of Education’s bid to close low-performing schools and replace them with charter schools. Her Harlem Success Network of charter schools was set to replace two zoned schools in Harlem, PS 194 and PS 241, but the DOE said last week it would keep those schools open because of a lawsuit filed by the United Federation of Teachers and others that alleges that the school swap is illegal. Moskowitz said today the lawsuit shows that “the union wants to shut down the the competition rather than compete on the merits of what it offers.”
But her former colleagues on the council’s education committee weren’t quick to accept Moskowitz’s rhetoric. Several of them took used her appearance as an opportunity to lecture her about the divisive tactics employed by Harlem Success and the parent organization it operates, Harlem Parents United. In a withering press release, the organizations last week called for the neighborhood schools to be shut down. Elizabeth reported that a public hearing last month about using the PS 194 building to house a charter school was dominated by shouting and name-calling. Committee chairman Robert Jackson today said the hearing was “so volatile” that he feared it was more than the eight safety officers present could handle.
“Your arrogance about what the system should do and that charter schools are the answer is exactly what drives the conflict in the community,” said Maria del Carmen Arroyo of the Bronx. Inez Dickens, whose council district includes PS 194, said about the conflict in her community, “It never appears to be so much so with Democracy Prep, Promise Academy, Harlem Village Academy. It always seems to be centered around Harlem Success.” And Jackson lectured Moskowitz about the behavior of her schools’ parents at the recent public hearing. You can see Jackson’s complete rebuke in the video above.
Another contentious topic during Moskowitz’s appearance was how much her schools net in private donations each year. After Lew Fidler, a council member from Brooklyn, asked her to disclose how much she raises from private donors, Moskowitz said several times that she tries to land “25 cents on the dollar” for every dollar she receives in public funds but would not name a dollar amount. ”Having served with you for four years and knowing how on top of things you are, you run four different schools — you run them — you can’t tell me what your total private money raised is?” Fidler asked. Moskowitz said that because her goal is to show that charter schools can compete with traditional public schools with the same funding, she stops raising money when she matches the funds given to other schools in Harlem.