State Senate President Malcolm Smith gave $100 G in state funds to Queens school he founded
Sunday, January 17th 2010, 4:00 AM
State Senate President Malcolm Smith steered $100,000 in state funds to a Queens charter school he helped found, the Daily News has learned.
The money was earmarked this budget year for educational programs at Peninsula Preparatory Academy Charter School in Far Rockaway.
Smith was a founder of the school, which was chartered in 2004, and an original board member. His spokesman said he divested ties to the school when he became Senate minority leader in November 2006.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), a close ally of Smith's, is still listed as a board member.
In 2006 and 2007, Smith received a total of $12,000 in campaign donations from Steven Klinsky, who founded the school's management company, Victory Schools Inc.
Victory has been the school's management company since 2004, according to a company official. The charter school's latest tax documents show it paid $762,322 in management fees.
While there does not appear to be anything illegal about Smith's steering tax money to the school from local assistance funds that he controls, the move raised some eyebrows.
"I don't know if it's inappropriate under the law, but it points to the influence the charter school association has on the crafting of legislation as a real special interest," said Richard Ianuzzi, president of the powerful state teachers' union.
Charter schools are publicly financed but privately run.
"Sen. Smith has been completely divested from any involvement in the governance and administration of the school for" about four years, Smith spokesman Austin Shafran said.
Peninsula Preparatory Academy Principal Ericka Wala said the school, which aims to "create a challenging, technology-rich learning environment," has yet to receive the $100,000, which is earmarked for computers.
Wala said Smith has no direct involvement with the school. She referred all other questions to school board chairwoman Betty Leon, who could not be reached for comment.
Victory officials said that Klinsky's donations were meant as a show of support for Smith's pro-charter school stance. Smith recently introduced a bill to double the amount of charters allowed under law.
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