Thousands of Parents Join Success Academy to Protest the Loss of their Pre-K at a Time when the Mayor Promotes Pre-K
New York, NY — As City Hall continues to illegally withhold funding for Success Academy’s pre-k program, placing educational opportunity for young children in jeopardy, thousands of parents are raising their voices.
The #SaveOurPreK campaign, which officially kicks off today, features a petition created by Pierre Delsoin, a Bronx father of two. He commutes to Harlem every day so that his daughter can attend pre-k in a safe, nurturing environment at Success — instead of at a failing district school.
His appeal to city and state leaders: “Please help other families like mine. Without funding, these kids will lose their pre-k.”
In just hours, more than 5,000 people had signed the petition. In less than 24 hours, it has topped 10,000 signatures.
Success has been operating pre-k for seven months without receiving funding from the city. In a political power play, the administration demands that Success sign an illegal contract that would entangle its pre-k classes in the same bureaucratic red tape that charter schools were created — and legally empowered — to avoid.
The DOE contract would regulate the Success pre-k program down to the minute, arbitrarily veto rich educational field trips, and entitle the city to replace Success’s custom-designed curriculum with lessons of its choosing—on a whim.
State education law does not allow the city to require that charter schools submit to a DOE contract and regulations as a condition of funding. Specifically, the law states:
“[C]harter schools shall be eligible to participate in universal full-day pre-kindergarten programs under this section, provided that all such monitoring, programmatic review and operational requirements under [§ 3602-ee] shall be the responsibility of the charter entity.”
The “charter entity” that regulates a charter school is either, depending on the school, the State University of New York or the State Education Department. As the pre-k law expressly states, “all such monitoring, programmatic review and operational requirements” are subject to the control only of SUNY or SED, not New York City. Thus, the City’s contract, which seeks to impose a legion of “monitoring, programmatic review and operational requirements” on Success and other charter schools, is illegal.
“Because the law is very clear that the charter authorizer, not the city, is responsible for oversight over charter school provided pre-kindergarten, a contract that purports to vest the city with that authority is an overreach and legally vulnerable to a challenge,” said James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center.
“For students ages five and up, we have the freedom to place two teachers in a classroom, have science every day, and help all 11,000 of our scholars learn to play chess,” said Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz. “Why should pre-K be different?”
Success Academy had announced plans to open additional pre-k classes at other schools next year, in an attempt to meet the overwhelming demand from families seeking a high-quality alternative to district pre-k programs. Success has already received more than 2,100 applications for pre-k seats to date.
As Bronx parent Veronica Carrero wrote on the petition: “My son is a first grade Success Academy student and his twin sisters who are 3 will be attending pre-k next year and I would love for them to both attend pre-k in Success Academy. My son has learned so much and is excelling in school.”
At the end of January, Moskowitz wrote to families who had applied to Success’s pre-k, advising them that unless the mayor changed his mind or the State Education Commissioner upheld the law, she would be forced to suspend pre-k for the coming school year.
Success Academy and 17 pre-k parents filed their appeal to Commissioner Elia three months ago, asking her to direct the DOE to pay as required by law. But with no response coming, and with time running out for preparing for the coming school year, last month Moskowitz wrote to Elia requesting action by February 15 to force the DOE to obey the law and give Success Academy the funds it is owed. Moskowitz also wrote to Mayor Bill de Blasio, asking that he direct his DOE to immediately remit payment for Success Academy pre-k scholars.
ABOUT SUCCESS ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOLS
Founded in 2006, Success Academy Charter Schools are free public pre-K through 12 schools open to all children in the state through a random lottery. With 34 schools across Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, Success Academy enrolls 11,000 students, primarily low-income children of color in disadvantaged neighborhoods: 74% of students receive free or reduced-price lunch, 95% are children of color, 13% are children with disabilities, and 8.5% are English language learners. Ranked in the top 1% in math and the top 3% in English on 2015 state proficiency tests, Success Academy schools received more than 22,000 applications for fewer than 2,300 open seats last year. Two Success Academy schools, Success Academy Harlem 1 and Harlem 3, have been honored as National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education, the only Harlem schools in the last 25 years to receive this prestigious award.
On Twitter at: @SuccessCharters