As more Success Academy middle schools are opening in the New York City area, billionaire John Paulson, head of hedge fund Paulson & Co., has announced that he will be giving $8.5 million to the charter school network.
Antoine Gara, writing for Forbes, says Paulson, a graduate of Bayside public high school in Queens, sees this as a way to help satisfy the ongoing demand for charter schools within the city.
"The best way to reduce poverty long term is to improve the quality of public school education. Success Academy's proven record in improving the quality of education for our neediest children has been extraordinary," said Paulson in a statement.
The Paulson Family Foundation, which is run by Paulson and his wife Jenny, donates to efforts which range from education to healthcare and preservation for such organizations as the Central Park Conservancy. Paulson added that more public and private resources need to be given to Success Academy so that more kids who want to attend a school which is improving the quality of education can do so. Paulson believes there is no better investment.
Success Academy was founded in 2006 at a Harlem-based site and will add two new sites thanks to this donation — one in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn and one in the Hell's Kitchen area of Manhattan.
In all, the organization includes 34 schools which serve 11,000 children from pre-K through high school. This year it received 22,000 applications for fewer than 2,300 available seats. The schools rank in the top 1% in math and the top 3% in reading statewide, according to state proficiency exams. Success Academy schools out-perform other schools in affluent neighborhoods in many cases.
"We are in a crisis of education," John Paulson said in a phone interview Thursday, adding that sending children to the worst-performing New York City public schools is "dooming them to a life of potential failure."
The Paulson Family Foundation donation is one of the largest Success Academy has received, says Simone Foxman, reporting for Bloomberg. Paulson has joined Third Point's Daniel Loeb and Gotham Asset Management's Joel Greenblatt in their support for the charter school group.
Director of Success Academy, Eva Moskowitz, a former city councilwoman, helped block a bid by Mayor Bill de Blasio to cut aid to charter schools. The union which represents lunchroom workers and other school aides voted against making investments with Gotham Asset Management after concerns were expressed because of the firm's statements about charter schools.
Because charter schools are privately run but are funded with taxpayer money and are not subject to many of the regulations that govern public schools, they have many detractors. But supporters say the schools can offer a better alternative to public schools, especially in assisting the neediest students.
Capital New York's Eliza Shapiro writes that the Success Academy network will be expanding by 14 new schools in the next few years. The network is focused on having 50 schools serving 36,000 students by the year 2020.
Paulson's generosity has also benefited the Robin Hood Foundation, a supporter of charter schools, and the Harlem Children's Zone, which oversees charter schools. Families for Excellent Schools, a pro-charter organization allied with Success Academy, spent $9.7 million last year on lobbying measures.
"John and Jenny's extraordinary generosity ensures that thousands of New York City's least-privileged children will receive a world-class education," Moskowitz said in a statement released Thursday. "We are deeply grateful for their support, allowing us to open more high-caliber schools and close the opportunity gap that has trapped hundreds of thousands of this city's families in poverty."