City Council Education Chair Set to Cramp Charter Schools Style

March 3, 2014 Updated: October 8, 2018

NEW YORK—When a charter school network in New York City decided to get attention by closing its schools and busing some 6,700 children to rally state legislators in Albany this Tuesday, they may have gotten more attention than they expected.

Daniel Dromm, the chair of the City Council Education Committee, now plans to scrutinize the charter school operations and hold a hearing on the matter. Dromm announced his intention after learning that the biggest charter school network in the city, Success Academy, plans to bus its students to Albany Tuesday to attend a rally in support of charter schools.

On Feb. 27, the city’s Department of Education announced that three Success Academy schools won’t be allowed to co-locate in public school buildings this September.

The closings were the result of a review of 45 co-locations approved by the previous administration. The department revoked nine co-locations; three of them were charter schools, all Success Academies. It is not clear whether the schools will have a chance to apply for a different co-location. They can also find a private space.

Dromm said in a statement that he’s “deeply concerned about the legality of a school leader closing schools for entirely political purposes.”

Success Academy did so once already. In October, it closed all 22 of its schools for half a day and sent students on a march across the Brooklyn Bridge to rally for charter schools.

This Tuesday, children will spend the whole day away from school and will receive instruction on the way, according to Kerri Lyon from SKDKnickerbocker, a public relations agency representing Success Academy.

In the case of the Tuesday rally, parents support it and many will participate as well, according to Bob Bellafiore, senior adviser to the Northeast Charter School Network, a nonprofit representing all 259 charter schools in New York state.

Even without a pushback from the parents, Dromm said he’s concerned, because taxpayers’ money is being used. Charter schools are publicly funded on a per pupil basis. They also raise private money.

“This has been part of my agenda since I’ve become elected to City Council—how they’re funded, how they’re able to close schools on their own whim, and why Eva Moskowitz gets paid half a million dollars a year,” Dromm said, referring to the salary of the founder and chief executive officer of the network. “I will follow up to find out exactly what Eva Moskowitz has been up to.”

Dromm’s announcement is another sign of a trend that City Council supports the policies of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab