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Millman carries teachers union’s spear in charter school battle

for The Brooklyn Paper
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A Cobble Hill assemblywoman is pushing a hastily drafted, teachers-union–backed plan to stop a charter school — oddly citing the neighborhood’s school-age population explosion as the reason to halt the non-union elementary school.

Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Cobble Hill) and former Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Carmen Farina say that an “early childhood center” should open inside an existing high school building at Court and Baltic streets instead of the proposed Success Charter Network school.

Under the plan — which supporters have not presented to the city — area pre-K and kindergarten students would be allotted space in the building, which is home to the Brooklyn School for Global Studies and the School for International Studies.

The stated goal: Remedy packed elementary schools in Cobble Hill by sending some of the neighborhood’s youngest kids to the new center.

The other goal: Thwarting former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz’s hopes of opening her non-union elementary school in the building.

Enrollment details have not yet been hammered out, but Millman noted that the center would be smaller than the proposed charter school, which would open next fall with a kindergarten class and grow by one grade each year.

“This would relieve overcrowdi­ng,” Millman said. “The charter school would begin to squeeze out the existing schools.”

The new plan comes a month after Moskowitz — who runs the multimillion dollar not-for-profit Success Charter Network — announced she would open a K-4 school at the site, citing a “need for more [and] better schools” and a school-age population boom.

But parents and the teachers union is fighting the plan, arguing out that teachers and students at the Global Studies school — which this year rose from an F-rating to a B — would have to compete for classroom, cafeteria and gym space.

To stop the charter network, the Alliance for Quality Education — an education advocacy group affiliated with the United Federation of Teachers, which has been opposed to charter schools in the past — created the early childhood center proposal.

The group claims that the charter school “will generate division and tension” and that the early childhood center will be “community-led and community-based.”

Millman, a former teacher who has been in Albany for 14 years, admitted that she didn’t push the idea until the charter school hatched its plan. She claimed that her tardiness was simply because the Department of Education has in the past been unreceptive to her proposals.

Millman added that the charter school would “impede the growth” of the Brooklyn School for Global Studies — but the school’s principal Joseph O’Brien told The Brooklyn Paper that he supports Moskowitz’s charter school.

Success Netword schools are run by an independent board and offer a more flexible structure and different curriculum. Students are chosen via lottery and teachers do not belong to the union.

In Cobble Hill, PS 261, PS 58 and PS 146 were over-enrolled last year — most notably in lower level grades such as kindergarten.

Department of Education spokesman Frank Thomas said that the city has not received the Millman-union proposal.

“I’m not going to comment on a plan that doesn’t really exist,” said Thomas.

Farina did not respond to two calls seeking comment.

But parents had plenty to say.

“A smaller school wouldn’t interfere as much,” said Pamela Bynoe, president of the Parent Teacher Association at the Brooklyn School for Global Studies. “This is a much better idea.”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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Reader Feedback

Steve from Carroll Gardens says:
Millman is absolutely right. Charter schools are a creeping menace privatizing public education. Which is what Bloomberg and the 1% want. Why educate pesky poor people...unless we and our hedge fund buddies can make a killing off it?
Nov. 23, 2011, 10:19 am
John from Flatbush says:
Millman works for the teacher's unions, not taxpayers and parents. I have 3 kids in public schools and say the more charter schools the better. I want more choices for my kids, not less. Welcome to Brooklyn, Eva Moskowitz, and good luck!
Nov. 23, 2011, 11:53 am
gaston from brooklyn says:
Finally a politician willing to stand up for education for all. I've heard people complain that teacher's unions have too much power- thank goodness it's not just hedge fund managers (who back charter schools) who have a monopoly on influencing politicians. I don't always agree with Millman, but she's right on this.
Nov. 23, 2011, 1:57 pm
Jenn from UWS says:
Charter schools are fully free and public. They represent a push against the status quo and introduce competition into the system, which challenges everyone to perform better and raise the bar. More competition and more choices only benefits children and families. Moreover, charters are less of a burden on taxpayers because in exchange for greater flexibility on how they run their schools, they accept less government funding.
Nov. 23, 2011, 2:57 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Jenn, you must be reading something that is a reflection in the mirror, because it seems as if it's backwards. Charter schools are not open to all. Most of the students that are able to get in easily are very rich. The only way in without making a big donation is to win the lottery, and there is a small chance of that. Although those that run the programs can pay for it with their own money, they demand that the level of government provides the money for it instead. I am so tired of those who villify the teacher's union when turnning a blind eye to the charter shcools. BTW, some of these charter schools are known to send their lobbyists to events to deny support for voting on public school budgets. One other thing, unlike public schools, charter and other private schools can actually expell students that are doing bad academically. I thank Millman for fighting for the people and for the few.
Nov. 23, 2011, 5:05 pm
Anon from Brooklyn Heights says:
Don't be fooled by Millman. She may talk this talk but if a better offer is made to her you will see her back off, and fast. Look what she did with private condos inside Brooklyn Bridge Park. "I do not support housing inside public parks", she said. Then, voted to allow housing - now splashing the front page of this paper and others - beginning on Pier 1. Private, luxury condos inside a public park. She is not ever to be trusted. Just wait, charter school foes. Just wait.
Nov. 23, 2011, 5:20 pm
Jenn from UWS says:
Tal Barzilai, your statement is just not true. The Success Academy Charters (and I believe all NY state charters) are admissions blind, which means donations have nothing to do with whether or not a child is selected through the lottery. At the Upper West Success Academy, 2 board members' children were not selected through the lottery so their children were not able to attend the school. Another board member only got in off the wait list because the numerous law suits scared so many families away. Charter schools should not be lumped with private schools because they are not private. They cannot expel students for academic performance. What they can do, like all schools, is hold students back who do not meet the benchmarks to progress to the next grade. Often times when this happens, families withdraw their student.

Moreover, students enrolled in charters are not a part of the 1%, if that is what you are implying. Success Academy schools offer high quality education to all students and there is an enormous demand for them-hence the lotteries.
Nov. 23, 2011, 5:30 pm
Mike from Cobble Hill says:
I concur with Jenn, Charter Schools are admissions blind.

What kind of propaganda is that to state the inverse?
Nov. 23, 2011, 6:04 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
As usual those fanatical to charter schools go rushing to the defense. Many owners of charter schools tend to get locations without ever paying the full price. Those that occupy places where public schools are always tend to take up more space despite the fact that the public school(s) own them, which is why the NAACP has agreed to fight with the UFT on that. There have even been some students who were not allowed to graduate when their parents couldn't pay the tuition. If there really has to be a charter school, then allow for Moskowitz to pay for it herself rather than demand taxpayer dollars for it.
Nov. 23, 2011, 7:35 pm
Jenn from UWS says:
Nothing I've said is fanatical. I'm not sure what you mean by "Those that occupy places where public schools are always tend to take up more space". More space than the existing school? That is also just not true. Have you ever been in a charter school? And if so, are you assuming what was true of 1 charter school is true of all charter schools? On the Upper West Side, UWSA occupies 1.5 hallways of a 4 story square building. So they do not occupy more space than the other schools. Again, charters do not charge tuition because they are public schools; so the idea of students' not being allowed to graduate because parents couldn't pay this imaginary tuition is false. Lastly, charters only move into co-located space when space becomes available either due to a failed school such as Brandeis High School or enrollments being so low in the current school that there are hundreds of unused seats. Why shouldn't a school that is repeatedly scoring in the top 1% of NY state offer more opportunities for a free, high-quality education to children who would otherwise not get one?
Nov. 23, 2011, 9:52 pm
Actual Parent with Actual Kids from The Neighborhood says:
Let's be clear about what's happening here: Joan Millman works for the Teachers Union rather than the kids and parents who live in her district.

I am a parent in the neighborhood with two school-age children. We have seen an extraordinary baby boom in the neighborhood over the last 15 years. As a result, our public schools are massively over-crowded, falling behind and not meeting the demand. This is a huge crisis in our neighborhood and what is Joan Millman doing about it? She's preventing a new school from opening its doors. Shame on you, Joan.

As a parent with school age children I am very happy to see charter schools moving in to meet demand, provide more choice and push other schools in the neighborhood to do better and be more creative. Virtually everyone I know is happy to have charter schools move in and provide another option to parents and kids. I am very disappointed that Joan Millman would actively try to stop the addition of a new school in the neighborhood.

This is yet another indication that Joan Millman is out-of-touch with her district and that it is time for someone to run against her in the Democratic primary and get rid of her.
Nov. 24, 2011, 12:45 pm
Tom from Brooklyn Hts says:
Actual Parent--

Did you miss the little factoid that this proposed school would be placed into one of the existing public schools you have described as "massively overcrowded"?

Most charter schools, including this proposal, aren't building new buildings, they're taking seats away from other public school kids, forcing greater crowding on them while creating their own classroom spaces in the school with a much lower teacher/student ratio. AND they intend to expand, year by year. Are they building anything? Not most of them. They just keep squeezing the existing schools who are then judged to be "failing" after the DOE has engineered their demise by stealing resources and space for Charter Schools!

Here are some links to info everyone should review, or just keep drinking the DOE kool aid:

http://grassrootseducationmovement.blogspot.com/2009/07/truth-about-charter-schools.html

http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2009/08/truth-about-charter-schools.html

http://www.waitingforsupermantruth.org/?page_id=408

http://nycrubberroomreporter.blogspot.com/2010/10/shifting-truth-about-charter-schools-by.html
Nov. 24, 2011, 6:50 pm
Another parent from Boerum Hill says:
Tom, do a little research before you start spewing more teachers union rhetoric. The middle school has over 600 unused seats. Our tax dollars pay for them and the kids in district 15 need them for elementary school seats.

Shame on you Tom for failing to realize that teachers and parents need to pull together and use all of our resources for the common good. Thanks for posting links to your grassroots UFT blogs.

If two men on the street need CPR, is it better to let them both go untreated or help who you can? Let your conscience be your guide.
Nov. 24, 2011, 10:24 pm
Tom from Brooklyn Hts says:
Actual Parent--

YOU were the one going on about the overcrowded schools, and suddenly you're spouting DOE figures about "600 unused seats"??? Do you realize that the DOE computes "unused seats" with a formula that stacks the deck against regular public schools by including spaces that aren't classrooms in their calculations? They don't do that for Charter Schools! And then they continue their misinformation by saying that if, by their juggled figures, a regular public school has less than 29 students per classroom (yes, Actual Parent, 29!) it is "underutilized?" Then they do a different calculation for Charters, using classrooms only, with a utilization figure of 19 students per actual classroom.

It's a pretty scary parent who then tosses out hogwash about choosing which dying person to help! There are no "acceptable losses" when it comes to childrens' educations. Shame on you! Double shame on you! I can't believe an actual parent would say anything so unfeeling!

But you're not an actual parent, are you?
Nov. 25, 2011, 6:01 am
Actual parent from Boerum Hill says:
I am a parent Tom, but a different one than Actual Parent from the Neighborhood.

I'm the one who looked up the unused seat figure. I also know the underutilized formula that calculates the space in the public building is separate from how many kids the DOE will crowd into a popular school. And that logically, any charter school must use less than that underutilized formula space allotment. I really wonder if you assume everyone is too uneducated to think that through. But charter schools are not housed in popular school buildings, the are housed in schools that are under enrolled.

Name calling? I'm a parent. One who sees how threatening choice is to the teachers union and is disgusted. If you are poor and zoned to a bad school you are a guaranteed loser in our system and I believe that is wrong.
Nov. 25, 2011, 9:46 am
Tom from Brooklyn Hts says:
Well, Actual Parent, having looked all that up you must realize what a crock the DOE has been feeding the people of New York for the entire Bloomberg administration, including how he and Joel Klein (who so conveniently moved right over to Rupert Murdoch's outfit) turned our schools into testing factories, not classrooms, and then cooked the books to make it look like startling progress was being made. Of course, the State and Federal evaluations have shown there has been NO progress and even some regression! You know all that, right? Of course you do.

Eva Moskowitz tried to put that school into one on Pacific Street that already housed a charter school and the parents raised righteous fury over the grab and what it would mean for the kids already there and their autism program. Having been defeated there she sets her eyes on another school nearby, even though she had filed an application that didn't mention either of these locations. Are questions asked? Only by parents who have to defend their kids from this predatory chain that last year paid Moskowitz over $300K. And you have a problem with the unions????

Of course it's wrong to trap kids in bad schools. But it's even worse to engineer an environment that seems designed to force certain schools in certain neighborhoods to fail by withholding resources and overcrowding them. It wasn't the teacher's union that did that, that was Mayor Mike and the DOE! FIX the schools, don't close them, and don't turn them into cash cows for hedge fund operators.

There are no acceptable losses in our children's education.
Nov. 25, 2011, 1:31 pm
Parent for CS from Cobble Hill says:
I'm another parent in favor of the Charter, I think it will be a great success for our children and our nabe.

For sure the loosers will be the underperforming teachers that are usually PROTECTED by the union mafia. So what are you Tom anyway? An underperforming unionized teacher? That would be my best bet.
Nov. 25, 2011, 3:38 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
Excellent and lively debate. I can't comment on the appropriateness of charter or public schools since I have long been out of school, do not have a child and do not live in the affected areas. However, I can comment on the article, which struck me as having, albeit mild, a pro-charter school anti-Millman tone [well, not "anti-Millman," but clearly focusing on portraying her as compromised and somewhat out-of-touch].

I am enjoying the comments and am being educated for it, and I especially commend Tom from Brooklyn Hts for going the extra step of referencing sources and corroborating his arguments. What an excellent change of pace here on these threads!
Nov. 25, 2011, 5:07 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I still find it wrong to close public schools just because they are believed to be failing academically. In return, this causes overcrowding of other public schools in other districts. Then again, this does work in Bloomberg's favor, because what better way to talk about overcrowding than by creating the very problem itself. Why is it that charter schools never close due to failing academically, or never have to worry about class size? The answer is because of friends in high places. Again, charter schools have the money to send their best lobbyists to oppose public school budgets in convincing governors to be against them.
Nov. 25, 2011, 5:59 pm
Another parent from Boerum Hill says:
Tom, if the teachers union put their weight behind getting rid of standardized testing the world would be a better place.

Your facts are totally wrong. Eva Moskowitz had nothing to do with The Brooklyn Prospect Charter wanting to co-locate last year in PS 32 on Hoyt St. Predatory chain? Her schools educate the kids the public system is failing and give them a chance to get into a good public middle or high schools. She didn't make the system. But she did take it on in the city council and wow, the union has had their knives out for her ever since. Personally I think the woman deserves more for fighting for equality in our crazy system and dealing with the lying and conniving teachers union.
Tal, Pleasantville must operate very differently than NYC. Charter schools operate with a charter that has to be reviewed and renewed every five years. You want to talk about cabals? When this cockamamie pre k proposal never materializes at the DOE the teachers union will claim that under mayoral control "community proposals" were not considered and that charter schools got special treatment. Nonsense.
Nov. 25, 2011, 7:01 pm
Jamin from Cobble Hill says:
Obviously a hot button issue, as it involves our children's education and the right to a decent job, neither of which should be at odds, but they are.

As a parent of two kids who will soon be joining the Public School ranks of Cobble Hill, I agonize over the choices we have, and, in the end, will take the best opportunity for my kids. Period. No two ways about it.

But continued demonization of the teachers union is wrong as there are progressive movements within the ranks, but they, like so many movements, have little power to change things. And not recognizing that Charter's take money out of the larger pool of funds for public schools is just foolishness.

The narrative of Charters vs. Public Schools is even more broken than the schools themselves.
Nov. 26, 2011, 3:07 pm
Al PANKIN from Downtown says:
i wish they had charter schools when my kids went to public schools, I took them out of the public school system to save them. the unions killed the public schools. I spent a fortune on their private school education, it was worth every penny...who would listen to anyone from Pleasantville?
Nov. 28, 2011, 1:02 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I take it a person talking from the UWS doesn't bother you either. Maybe it's because that person agrees with you. I wouldn't be surprised if I took your side, it wouldn't matter where I live. Overall, I don't care about private schools wanting to open up, but they should pay for their own space, and not use any taxpayer dollars for it. Seriously, I am so tired when owners of a charter school always say they are better than any public schools when in reality they are no different, but sometimes even worse.
Nov. 28, 2011, 6:03 pm
Katy from Queens says:
I find it interesting that a principal from a co-located school at the Cobble Hill location would support the charter school moving in. Many of the Success charter schools have reported great relationships with their co-located schools, and some share barely any space. For example, at the Success Academy on the Upper West Side, the school only shares a stairwell with another high school and the auditorium, which sits empty 90% of the time. In fact, several high schoolers express their desire on a daily basis to volunteer with the kids in the school, and there is a reading program where one of the schools reads to the Kindergarten and First Grade kids.

Tal, you lumping in Success charters with ALL charters is only proving your ignorance. Do your research. Not all charter schools are the same. How could you say they are no different? Look at the facts - Success charters are doing a great thing for kids when many other public schools (notice i am not lumping ALL public schools together) have poor graduation rates, reading scores, math scores, etc.

It doesn't seem that charter schools are completely the answer to the problem. A revision of the union contract, and the union completely, would certainly improve the state of affairs. Many UFT contracts allow the principals to only observe the classroom say, twice a year. Success charters (not ALL charters) have their principals observing the classrooms every single day, giving feedback to the teachers on better instruction, better classroom management, and ways to get kids to actually learn. They can improve, so the kids can improve, so the kids can soar.

Moreover, I would like to comment on the diversity of Success charter schools (not ALL charters). They are not all "rich kids". Preference is given to kids in their district. That's it. Every family must go through the lottery, and the school doesn't look at their income, ethnicity, etc. In fact, about 45% of the SA on the Upper West Side is African-American and Latino. Around 30% is Caucasian. The number of African-American, Latino, and multi-racial kids in the other Success Academy schools are MUCH higher. There are kids from every end of the spectrum: special education kids, special-needs kids, kids who are below grade-level, kids who are at grade-level who struggle, kids who are above grade-level, English language-learners, etc.
Nov. 29, 2011, 11:18 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
As usual, another charter school booster fails to answer to my question. I never said I was against the existance of charter and other private schools, just on why should they be allowed to use taxpayer dollars when they are private to begin with. I don't know why that is so hard to answer. I am sure that the owners of such schools should be able to pay for their space by themselves and without the help of the taxpayers. BTW, charter schools can actually expell failing students, while this would be illegal for public schools unless they don't mind facing a lawsuit for doing such a thing. If you asked me, there really is such a thing as bad students, and this has absolutely nothing to do with race at all, so I don't want to hear a bunch of you calling me a racist for saying this.
Nov. 29, 2011, 6:50 pm

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