Preferential treatment for charters

Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy network prepared for its expansion into a Cobble Hill school this year by going out with the old and in with the new. Old asbestos floor tiles were taken out. New paint, new doors, newly outfitted bathrooms, new carpeting and new furniture were brought in.

Even 40 old PCB-contaminated light fixtures were ripped out without Department of Education authorization.

The result was a spiffed-up, new-looking charter school ready to welcome its entering kindergarten classes in the fall.

Meanwhile in the three traditional public schools upstairs, it was mostly more of the old.

The striking contrast is an example of the unequal treatment of charters and regular district schools under the Bloomberg administration.

Another sign of disparate treatment is that Success Academy has faced no significant consequences for removing PCB lights without the authorization necessary to protect against highly hazardous PCBs and asbestos going airborne through the school.

If a district school’s employees took it upon themselves to tear out PCB lights, imagine the repercussions!

State law requires that the city match any spending on upgrades to a co-located charter with equal spending on improvements to the non-charters in the building.

The DOE says it spent $350,000 on Eva’s school and more than $2.1 million on the other three schools in the building.

That claim shocks teachers and parents at those district schools. Besides new lockers and new walls in locker rooms to create a dance studio and an exercise room, parents and school staff see little evidence of the DOE’s spending. Showers still don’t work, and holes remain in the locker room ceilings.

The deeper problem is that Success Academy gets preferential treatment in funding overall. While district schools rely on the DOE for renovations and improvements, charters can access money from their private backers. Success Academy, which is supported by hedge funds, spent $370,000 of its own money on top of the DOE funds for improvements at the Cobble Hill site.

Charter schools also pay nothing for the public school space they use, a fact that public school advocates argue cheats taxpayers and students. The Independent Budget Office reported in early May that charging co-located charters for their building space would bring the city’s schools $85 million in revenues.

If charters like Success Academy can afford $370,000 to renovate a single floor of one building, couldn’t they also chip in rent?

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