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Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Eva Moskowitz/Joel Klein E-Mail Scandal

Eva Moskowitz has both friends and enemies in New York City. One friend is definitely Joel Klein, as Juan Gonzalez of the NY Daily News revealed last week when he released the 77 pages of emails sent between Moskowitz and Klein.

Moskowitz, wife of lawyer Eric Grannis, is the golden girl of charter schools and the apple of Joel Klein's eye. At least this is what the 125 emails sent between the two (see below) show. Several years ago, however, she managed to give a $350,000 donation of City Council money to the NEST+M school located at 111 Columbia Street in Manhattan's lower East side in order to get her son accepted there. (He was, and NEST is a public school, not a charter).

Joel Klein was made a figurehead Chancellor (remember, he has no contract)by Mike Bloomberg to reform public schools in New York City. Reform how, you may ask? In my opinion, the strategy was to dumb down the curriculum in math and reading, get rid of experienced, senior teachers, and then, when public schools got so bad they had to be closed (no effort made to fix them was part of the plan), bring in charter schools to save the day. Oh, and add into the plan a new way of grading schools so that the New York City parent community would be totally confused as to which school was good or bad on a given day. This "flavor-of-the-week" pattern is most useful when obstruction of parent protests is the focus.

That's what I think.

Anyway, below is the transcript of the discussion between Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on democracy now!

Thanks, Amy and Juan!!! Great job!


AMY GOODMAN: Juan, following up on our debate on charter schools, you had a very interesting piece in the New York Daily News today.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. Well, my column in the paper today—you know, there was a hearing yesterday in Washington of the Education Committee of the House of Representatives over reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, and the Obama administration wants to double the amount of money being spent across the country on new charter schools. And my column actually dealt with one of the people who testified at that hearing yesterday, the lead person testifying at the hearing, Eva Moskowitz, who runs the Harlem Success Academies, a group of about four or five schools in Harlem.

And I’ve been fighting now for months to get the email correspondence between her and the chancellor of the New York City public school system, Joel Klein. And the Department fought me for eight months. We needed a legal ruling. Our newspaper had to appeal to the State Committee on Open Government to get a legal ruling to force them to turn over the material. They finally did. And we actually published not only an article, my column in today’s Daily News, but on our website you can actually get the entire three-year email correspondence between these two figures.

And what it shows is an enormous amount of direct support by the top person in the public school system to these charter schools, in terms of raising money for them, overruling lower-level officials who were insisting that certain policies don’t allow them to do certain things. A very close relationship between the top chancellor of the New York City school system and this very small charter network leader in Harlem.

And, of course, Harlem has become the ground zero for the battle over charter schools, because there are about twenty-five charter schools in Harlem right now. Hundreds of parents are turning out in meetings. There are battles between pro-charter parents and anti-charter parents. It’s creating enormous divisions not only in New York City but throughout the country, as the government fails to improve the public schools but urges parents to continue to go into charters. So it’s a major issue across the country, and the Obama administration, of course, is coming out on the side of more and more charters and not dealing with some of the fundamental problems for how we improve our public schools.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll link to that at

Eva Moskowitz has special access to Schools Chancellor Klein - and support
others can only dream of

Juan Gonzalez, NY Daily News, February 25th 2010

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein often lauds a small group of Harlem charter schools founded by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz.

But few New Yorkers are aware of the access Moskowitz has to the chancellor or the special support he has bestowed on her program, whose four schools enroll just 1,300 of the city's more than 1 million public school students.

Since Moskowitz launched her first Harlem Success Academy in August 2006, Klein has attended at least 13 events for her schools, including several fund-raisers and private meetings with her, 125 e-mails between them show.

The e-mails, obtained by the Daily News under a Freedom of Information request, provide a glimpse into the close relationship - one that would make most principals green with envy.

They show that in addition to Klein's visits, Moskowitz:

- Secured the chancellor's help last year in landing a $1 million donation from a private Los Angeles foundation.

- Got Klein to intervene on her behalf in clashes she had with his subordinates.

- Boasted to him of organizing parent "armies" to advocate for Mayor Bloomberg's educational policies - and of flooding politicians with thousands of pro-charter school postcards.

The News requested e-mails pertaining to the efforts of Harlem Success to get more space in school buildings. The space issue is contentious in many city neighborhoods, and Moskowitz may be the best-known advocate of more public space for charters.

The e-mails clearly show Moskowitz had Klein's ear on the issue, even complaining to him about his aides.

"Dilly dalling [sic] bureaucrats don't want to confront principals," she wrote in June 2008. This was after a top school official refused to allocate Harlem Success Academy 2 an additional classroom in East Harlem's Public School 7.

"I still am short rooms and zoned school is getting more space than charters," Moskowitz said. "Your people will say am sure i am wrong. What they will say is simply not true."

"I've talked to John White [the official in charge of allocating school space] who will call you," Klein wrote back.

A few days later, Moskowitz told Klein that White was not giving her the space she wanted.

"Really could use your intervention," she wrote. "We need to quickly and decisively distinguish the good guys from bad. And yes take away resources from institutions that are harming children and give to those who are truly putting children first."

Not long afterward, the problem was apparently solved. "Help on space much appreciated," Moskowitz wrote.

Asked about her e-mails, Moskowitz said it is her job to advocate for her schools.

"I don't just quietly accept what is dished out to our parents and what I believe are unfair allocations of space that hurt my schools," she said.

At one point, she told Klein city Education Department policy kept her from getting enough mailing lists of public school kids for a marketing campaign for her charters.

"We need to be able to mail 10-12 times to elementary and pre-k families" Moskowitz wrote.

Five days later, Michael Duffy, the head of Klein's charter school division, wrote her:

"The Chancellor asked me [to] give you an update on where things stand with getting mailing labels to you and other charter schools."

Duffy was trying to "overcome the obstacles" of "privacy laws," he said, to make available all the labels Moskowitz wanted.

Klein spokesman David Cantor acknowledged the Moskowitz request led to a change in policy to provide more mailing lists.

"But it didn't only have to do with Harlem Success," he said. "Several charter schools were asking to be able to send mailings to families in their districts."

In a Jan. 11, 2009, e-mail, Moskowitz outlined her plans to build an advocacy network with other charter schools.

"What you are doing is so important," Klein responded. "Your charter colleagues are miles behind."

Since August 2006, the chancellor has attended several parent meetings at Harlem Success; two lottery drawings for its applicants; two poker night fund-raisers for the network at a Manhattan W hotel; an auction at Sotheby's of artwork by Harlem Success children, and several private breakfast meetings with Moskowitz.

"Klein hasn't been to our school in more than five years," said one principal of a high-achieving Manhattan public high school. "I've never had breakfast with him."

"The chancellor meets with several principals, charter school leaders and other N.Y.C. school operators just as often or more," Cantor said.

Cantor pointed to Geoffrey Canada, who operates two acclaimed Harlem Children's Zone charter schools, and to Richard Kahan, who runs the Urban Assembly network of public schools, as examples.

A spokesman for Harlem Children's Zone said Klein had visited its schools "maybe two or three times in the past six years."

Kahan said his network, which has existed for more than a decade and operates 22 schools, has had "maybe a dozen visits" from Klein.

The e-mails also show Klein appealed to Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad to fund Harlem Success, helping Moskowitz get $1 million from Broad's foundation.

"Can't thank you enough for your support," she wrote Klein after getting the money last year.

"We plan to open our last 3 in Harlem in august 2010 and then move to Bronx," she added. "With 27 charters in Harlem [counting other non-Harlem Success charter schools] we will have market share and will have fundamentally changed the rules of the game."

Charter schools look good under Ed Department's grading system
Thursday, December 20th 2007, 12:05 AM

City school officials Wednesday extended their controversial A-F grading system to 14 charter schools - a month after critics blasted them for exempting charters.

The problem, said city charter-school chief Michael Duffy, was that the publicly funded private schools don't have to submit the same data to the city.

"Charters by definition are independent of the district, so getting information together for them is less straightforward," Duffy said.

Parents and teachers had not taken the opinion surveys that accounted for 10% of grades at other schools.

After critics objected, officials launched a pilot program with 19 charters authorized by the city, but five of those had not been open long enough to have gradable data.

Most of the remaining 14 earned A's or B's, including two - Williamsburg Collegiate in Brooklyn and KIPP Infinity in Harlem - that earned the highest total scores in the city.

A few did poorly, including the Peninsula Preparatory Academy in Far Rockaway, Queens, which scored an F.

Comparisons are difficult because without survey results, attendance accounted for 15% of charter grades but only 5% of public school grades.

The difference upset some charter advocates.

"We thought if charters are going to be graded, let's do it by the same methodology. If not, let's wait until next year," said James Merriman of the New York City Center for Charter School Excellence.

He predicted that when all 60 city charter schools are given the option to be graded by the same criteria next year, most will participate.

"Going into this, you want to believe you should be held to the same standard as every other school out there," said Julie Trott, founding principal of Williamsburg Collegiate. "As much as we believe we're doing well and serving students as best we can, it's nice to have outside confirmation."

School officials say they wanted charter grades out before parents consider applying for next year.

"Our desire is to get information into the hands of parents," Duffy said.

Former City Council member Eva Moskowitz makin' a bundle at nonprofit schools
Juan Gonzalez - News

Friday, February 27th 2009, 12:32 AM
Ex-Council member Eva Moskowitz made $371,000 for running four charter academies, more than Chancellor Joel Klein got for running 1,400 city schools.
Costanza for News

Eva Moskowitz, the former City Council member who founded a small chain of nonprofit charter schools, is a passionate and abrasive champion of the charter school movement.

She's also making a bundle.

Moskowitz, who makes no secret of her desire to create 40 charter schools across the city and run for mayor some day, raked in $371,000 in salaries in the 2006-2007 school year from organizations connected to her four schools, tax records show.

Those schools, Harlem Success Academy 1, 2, 3 and 4, have an enrollment of about 1,000 pupils, from kindergarten to third grade.

The nonprofit organizations connected to the schools have yet to file more recent tax returns, but Moskowitz said in an interview late Thursday she received $310,000 last year - the 2007-2008 year - $250,000 in salary and $60,000 in a bonus.

That means Moskowitz, who is responsible for four schools, makes more than Chancellor Joel Klein, who gets $250,000 to run 1,400 schools.

In 2006-2007, she even surpassed John Ryan, the former chancellor of the State University of New York, who earned $340,000 to manage some 70 campuses with nearly 300,000 students.

Needless to say, she left your run-of-the-mill public school principal, with an average annual salary of $124,000, in the dust.

Tax records show in her first year of operation Moskowitz made $85,000 as executive director of Harlem Success Academy, the group that receives DOE money to operate the charter schools.

At the same time, she received $186,000 as chief executive officer of the Success Charter Network, a separate nonprofit that provides "management services" to her schools.

Finally, she received $100,000 as an "independent contractor" for Friends of Gotham Charter School, which provides support finances for Harlem Success.

All three organizations share an address and list as officers Joel Greenblatt and John Petry, the millionaire hedge fund managers who bankrolled the Success Charter Network.

Moskowitz said her unusually high pay for 2006-2007, included compensation for months of planning work from the previous year.

"Yes, I earn a good living," Moskowitz said. "I also have an enormous responsibility to try and design 40 schools that are immensely successful. If your child walks into my school, I treat them like my child."

Charter schools are free to use the money they raise from outside sources any way they see fit - even if that means huge salaries for the chief executive.

Given that Moskowitz routinely complains that the Department of Education has failed to provide a fair share of funding for her students, it's fair to ask why she's paying herself so much for educating so few. Charters get about 90% of what it costs to teach each child and raise funds for additional money.

Parents from Moskowitz's schools vehemently defend the Harlem Success Academy and say their kids are making phenomenal progress. That could very well be true, but the DOE has not posted independent test results for any of the Moskowitz schools.

Her critics, who include educators, parents, the teachers' union and Harlem political leaders, say she is a relentless self-promoter.

They say she is not shy about packing public meetings with a parent group she has organized, and then demanding that other public schools give up their space to make way for her programs.

"We had one meeting in East Harlem last year where she bused in her [students'] parents, and the situation got ugly and tense as they kept demanding space in our school," said one East Harlem community leader.

This week, more than 500 parents from the Harlem Success Academy were bused to a hearing at Public School 241 in West Harlem, a school the DOE wants to phase out and turn over to Moskowitz.

"We're unwilling to accept failure," Moskowitz said. "PS 241 has failed for years on end, and it needs to change."

Parents who send their children to 241, along with the local Community Education Council, say the DOE is violating the law by eliminating a zoned public school and replacing it with a charter.

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