In the heat of the Albany battle over the extension of the cap on the number of charter schools in New York State, the core agenda of the New York Charter School Association [NYCSA] has been stripped of all pretense. Faced with a set of reform proposals put forward by the UFT and elected officials to fix the broken charter school funding formula, NYCSA did not join in calls for reducing the funding lag, for having funding follow high needs students living in poverty, English Language Learners and Special Education students and for moving the cost of TRS pensions off the books of charter schools. Fair funding for charter schools is simply not important to the right-wing ideologues at NYCSA.
No, rather than take on such vital issues for charter schools, NYCSA has been waging an all-out campaign on behalf of for profit charter management firms Victory Schools and National Heritage Academies and on behalf of NYC D0E Chancellor Joel Klein. Legislation proposed by State Senate leader John Sampson and State Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver would combine an increase on the cap with a prohibition of for profit involvement in charter schools and limits on the NYC DoE policy of capriciously siting charter schools in district buildings to the detriment of the public schools already using the space. NYCSA is so opposed to these measures that it has its publicists at the New York Post call for the defeat of a bill which would extend the charter cap to 400 schools.
Victory Schools is the outfit that is sucking up 25¢ of every public funding dollar that should go to the students of Merrick Academy. In an article published in this past Sunday’s Daily News, New Yorkers learned of the involvement of Victory in a scheme which had Victory owner Steven Klinsky sending thousands of campaign dollars to State Senator Malcolm Smith; in turn, Smith directed over $100,000 of public dollars to a Victory School which had paid over three-quarters of a million dollars in management fees to Victory. National Heritage Academies is the corporation which challenged the right of its New York employees to organize into a union and bargain collectively. These are the “good” corporate citizens for whom NYCSA is going to the wall.
Truth be told, the presence of for profit corporations and money from right-wing corporations such as Wal-Mart and hedge-fund operators such as Richard Gilder and Carl Icahn has had a corrupting influence on New York charter schools. Last Friday, the Albany Times-Union published an article on how the leading voice in the anti-union jeremiad on the editorial pages of the New York Post and New York Daily News, Thomas Carroll of Brighter Choice Charter Schools, had received tens of millions of dollars from these sources. With that sort of support, no wonder that he has made the promotion of their agenda into a full-time job.
It’s this simple. New York Charter School Association: for profit, not for schools.
A sharp reader points out that Jeff Clark, the President and CEO National Heritage Academies, is on NYCSA’s Board of Trustees, and that Bill Phillips, current NYCSA President, worked for two for-profits, Beacon Education Management and SABIS Educational Systems, prior to leading NYCSA.