New York City's largest charter school operator, Success Academy, has canceled upcoming prekindergarten classes for more than 100 students after losing a fight with the de Blasio administration over funding.
Success Academy's founder, Eva Moskowitz, an impassioned former city councilwoman, chose to cancel the classes slated to begin in September rather than submit to the city supervision that the public funding would have entailed.
"It is unbelievably sad to tell parents and teachers that the courts won't rescue our pre-K program from the mayor's war on Success in time to open next year," said Moskowitz. Additionally, an open letter signed by other Success Academy officials similarly criticized the de Blasio administration. "If you truly wanted all kids in this city to have access to a life-changing early education, then you wouldn't steal that opportunity from our kids. Mr. Mayor, we are profoundly disappointed in you."
According to Kate Taylor of the New York Times, when New York City began its universal prekindergarten program, the city required all providers to sign a contract to ensure a level of quality. Moskowitz, however, refused to sign the contract, saying that the city does not have the authority to regulate charter schools.
Then, in February, New York's State Education Department intervened and said that the city had the right to require charter schools to sign the contract. Still resistant, Success Academy decided to bring the lawsuit to the State Supreme Court. That decision will not come in time for Success to prepare for its next school year. Without the contract, Success Academy is ineligible to receive public funds.
The NY Daily News reports that Moskowitz tried to secure $720,000 from the city to pay for the classes in contention. Until the legal battle is resolved, New York City will not grant the charter school network these funds.
The battle over prekindergarten is the latest flash in the ongoing feud between Moskowtiz and Mayor de Blasio, a critic of charter schools. After assuming office, the mayor blocked three Success schools from getting classroom space, and Moskowitz responded by unleashing $5 million worth of television advertisements against his administration.
New York City's Education Department said that, in light of the cancellations, it will work with students who were accepted into Success's prekindergarten classes and fine placement in programs elsewhere. Of note, the other 13 charter school organizations offering prekindergarten classes in New York City signed the contract, and, unsurprisingly, the de Blasio quickly noted this fact in its public statements on the matter.
To date, the Success Academy school network collected $34.6 million for the financial year that ended in June 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. Selim Algar, a writer for the New York Post, notes that Success planned to open two more pre-kindergarten programs next years.
Despite the regrettable outcome, Moskowtiz remained dauntless. "The contract forced on charter schools by the administration strips charters of their autonomy over curriculum, regulates the school day down to the minute," she said in a statement.