The following is the text of the UFT’s statement to the SUNY Board of Trustees on the revisions to the admissions preferences and processes of the schools in the Success Charter School network. Regrettably, the board approved the changes.
Today, the SUNY Board of Trustees is faced with a momentous decision on whether or not to approve the proposed revisions in the admissions policies of the charter schools in the Success Charter Network. These revisions are not minor, technical changes to the charters of the Success Academies. Rather, by eliminating the existing admissions preferences for at-risk students, the proposed revisions constitute a dramatic repudiation of what has been, until now, the Success Charter Network’s ostensible commitment to serve New York City’s students with the greatest need. For this very reason, the SUNY Board of Trustees must withhold approval of these changes.
From its authorization of the first New York charter schools twelve years ago, the SUNY Board of Trustees has always embraced the foundational idea that charter schools have a very special mission: to educate New York’s neediest students, with a particular focus on those students who were not being well-served in their current schools. That mission is not simply a noble sentiment; it is the raison d’être of New York’s charter schools.
When the first Success Academies were chartered, Success CEO Eva Moskowitz publicly embraced this charter school mission. But disconcerting signs that this embrace was a political marketing ploy and not a sincere, genuine commitment soon began to appear. Success Academies have enrolled far fewer high needs students – especially English Language Learners and students with special needs – than the public schools in the same geographical district. Those high needs students who do enter the school are often “counseled out.” This year, the Success Charter network has applied to open a charter in a high need, high poverty neighborhood (Community School District 13), and then in a classic “bait and switch” shifted the school to an upper middle class neighborhood with far lesser need (Community School District 15). Now, it proposes to dispose of its inconvenient formal commitment to serve at risk students by altering its admission policies. Where does this end?
It is time for the SUNY Board of Trustees to say “no.” You authorized these Success Academy Charter Schools in the belief that the applications were made in good faith and that the Success Charter Schools would honor their commitment to serving New York’s neediest students. But the Success Academy Charter Network has broken faith with you and with New York’s neediest students. If you do not say “no” now, then when? And if not you, then who?