Testimony on Success Academy

Testimony Regarding Success Academy’s Application in Manhattan’s Community School District 1

January 8, 2015 

Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you regarding Success Academy Charter School’s application to open an elementary school in Manhattan’s Community School District 1. I gave previous testimony regarding Success Academy when it was slated to enter community school District 2 and once again I am voicing my displeasure at this unwanted incursion.

I am deeply troubled by SUNY Board of Trustees decision to allow Success Academy to open in the Fall of 2015, and ask the SUNY Board of Trustees to reconsider Success Academy’s application. In addition, I ask that the DOE not allow Success Academy to be co-located with any school in the district. The local Community Board has expressed their disapproval with Success Academy entering the district, and I stand with them and share their concerns.

Giving Success Academy the green light to open a school in any district they choose in direct opposition to local needs sets a poor precedent. It also fails to recognize that each school district has different needs and the cursory decision to shift Success Academy to School District 1shows a blatant disregard for the community. I appreciate that his hearing was scheduled to permit this community to express its concerns that Success Academy will enter a community already stressed by overcrowded classrooms. Additionally, Success Academy will leave our local schools with fewer rooms and limited resources. We need more neighborhood schools, not more charter schools that cater to a select population. 

A major indicator for school success is the involvement of parents. It is the “cherry picking” of involved and committed parents that undermines the fabric of neighborhood schools. Much has been said about charter schools picking the best students, weeding out more challenged students, but it is this draining off of involved parents that may be most troubling.   

In addition, Success Academy is known to have low retention rates for English Language Learners and students classified as needing special education classes, it concerns me that we aren’t able to track the cohorts entering and leaving charter schools. This practice by some charter school operators is damaging to our communities and neighborhood schools.For example, a January 2014 New York City Independent Budget Office Schools Brief titled, (“Staying or Going? Comparing Student Attrition Rates at Charter Schools with Nearby Traditional Public Schools”), found special education students leaving charter schools at a much higher rate than non-special education students. According to the report, only 20 percent of students classified as special education students who entered charter schools in kindergarten stayed in the charter school by the third grade. According to the report, a large percentage of the students then transferred to New York City Public Schools. This is a distressing statistic. 

As I have expressed in previous testimony and numerous letters to the Board of Trustees, while charter schools may be deemed public under the law, they operate in a manner that is substantially different from traditional public schools, and all too frequently undermine them, especially now as charter networks seek even greater public support despite the fact that their executive compensation packages resemble those of private corporations. 

School District 1 offers a host of excellent schools that are already stretched thin. They do not want Success Academy and this decision should be respected. I appeal to the Board of Trustees to listen to the community and halt Success Academy’s application to move into district 2 or 1, and request a formal audit of Success Academy.