SUNY Trustee Resigns Over Objections to Charter Schools

Email a Friend

11:33 a.m. | Updated A State University of New York trustee who oversaw the board's creation of new charter schools has resigned, citing concerns that SUNY's Charter Schools Institute has a political agenda to increase the number of charters, rather than a mission to develop experimental schools.

The trustee, Pedro Noguera, a New York University professor of education, submitted his letter of resignation on Friday.

SUNY is one of two entities that oversee the authorization of charter schools in New York State, and as chairman of the trustee board's Education, College Readiness and Success Committee, Dr. Noguera was responsible for approving new schools.

His resignation came a few days after the committee voted to allow Success Academy, which has a number of charter schools, to open one in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, an affluent neighborhood where it would share a building with two public schools.

"That was kind of the last straw for me," Dr. Noguera said.

He said he had become troubled both by the types of charter schools SUNY was approving, as well as the committee's powerlessness to decide where they should open.

In recent months, the trustees have approved a charter school for homeless youth, as well as one overseen by the Children's Aid Society, but they were rare examples of charter applicants' bending over backward to reach low-income students with few other school choices.

More often, he said, the trustees have approved schools for which the aim is simply to keep expanding, in part for political purposes.

"The whole idea behind charters was they would be model schools that public schools could learn from, but there’s no collaboration right now, there's competition," Dr. Noguera said. "The charters have more resources in many cases -- you can see it in the salaries of the people running the schools -- their kids have more resources, and in many cases they're more privileged than the kids in the public schools. I don't see anybody in the state raising any concerns about that."

Dr. Noguera continues to support charter schools, he said, and will welcome those that dedicate themselves to historically marginalized populations. If, for example, Success Academy had wanted to open a charter high school in the Upper West Side building housing the city's Louis Brandeis High School, which is being phased out, that would have been laudable, he said. Instead, Success Academy, a network run by Eva Moskowitz, pushed to open an elementary charter school there.

"It shouldn't be up to the charter operator to decide: 'That's my vision,'" he said. "The governor and the state should say here's what we should do."

Ms. Moskowitz defended her charter network.

"Pedro has been a great partner and advocate of high-quality charter schools and we're sad to see him go," she said in a statement. "His departure, however, doesn't change the fact that there are families lined up in every neighborhood across this city for better public schools, and we'll continue to work as hard as we can to meet that demand and give every child the well-rounded education they need and deserve."

The SUNY board's chairman, H. Carl McCall, announced Dr. Noguera's resignation via e-mail on Wednesday, but did not say who would replace him.