Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Daily News on 3 Charter School Scams
The title of the article in the paper yesterday was: Charters + political ties= funding?
Monday, February 15th 2010, 4:00 AM
Three politically connected charter schools are expected to receive millions in city money for new buildings, an Education Department plan shows.
In the city's capital plan, two charter schools with ties to Mayor Bloomberg - Brooklyn's PAVE Academy and Harlem Promise Academy - are slated to receive a total of $72 million for new buildings, about a third of the city money available for charter construction.
Peninsula Preparatory Academy in Queens, which state Senate President Malcolm Smith helped found, will also receive funds, though an exact amount has not been settled on.
Critics say with limited resources for school construction, the city should build public schools where they're most needed - not where elected officials have pet schools.
"It pays to have friends," said Community Education Council 15 Co-President Jim Devor, criticizing the choice to spend public dollars on a new school for Red Hook, Brooklyn, which doesn't have an overcrowding problem.
"You have a neighborhood whose school facilities are underutilized. You gratuitously add a school building where none is needed."
The city's capital plan sets aside only up to $210 million for charter schools. Education officials said the schools must come up with at least a third of the money for their buildings, which will ultimately be owned by the city.
The opportunity to apply is available to all schools, but it can be a substantial challenge for charters.
Education Department officials denied that charter schools need political connections to get city funding, but said they do need established reputations that help them fund-raise enough to build a school, instead of moving into an existing one.
"You've got to have some chops," said Education Department Charter Schools Director Michael Duffy. "It's usually someone like Geoff Canada [president of Harlem Children's Zone] who can build."
Canada - who also runs Promise Academy - supported Bloomberg's push to renew mayoral control of the schools and the extension of term limits. His spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
PAVE Academy founder Spencer Robertson - whose billionaire father gave more than $10 million to the mayor's Fund for Public Schools - challenged his critics who attack him for keeping his charter school inside Public School 15.
"They criticize our building a new school in an 'underutilized' area.%A0 Yet they are the same people who cry out that our presence in PS 15 is causing severe overcrowding," said Robertson.
"This new building will be owned by the DOE - just like a public school building. The only difference is, PAVE will raise over $10 million for the project," he said.
Last month, the Daily News reported that Smith steered $100,000 in state funds to Peninsula Prep.
Federal prosecutors are now investigating Smith for channeling money to another Queens nonprofit he helped found.
Peninsula officials did not respond to a call for comment.