Public Advocate James on her Charter Schools Lawsuit

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Though she insists that she "believes in school choice," New York City Public Advocate Letitia James is pushing a lawsuit to block the co-location of charter schools with existing district schools. She says that the process for deciding co-location was "pro forma" and did not follow state regulations. "The 36 [charters] that the mayor approved are the subject of our lawsuit," says James.


Letitia James

Comments [32]

Donald J. Sepanek

Need to do a study? That's a classic political tactic to delay. Anyone who believes that Ms. James is not against charter schools or that this lawsuit is not politically motivated, I would be perfectly happy to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. Loved the way you made her dance during the last three minutes of the show Brian - I really enjoyed that.

Mar. 11 2014 04:56 PM
Joe in Brooklyn


- It’s true that the Stanford 2013 CREDO study did report that it is difficult to generalize about charter school quality overall and many were worse than traditional public schools. However, that study and others found that charters in urban areas do better at educating disadvantaged black and Hispanic children. To quote the press release for the study: “Performance differences between charter school students and their traditional public school peers were especially strong among black and Hispanic students in poverty and Hispanic students who are ELL in both reading and math.” This is precisely the overwhelming demographic served by charters schools in New York City. Studies (by Mathematica on KIPP [2013] and research at Penn) specifically on NYC charters have found them to be particularly effective, and again suggest that they outperform comparable traditional public schools. (For the Supovitz and Rikoon study on Success Academy specifically, see:

There has been some concern about attrition pushing up charters test scores, but the Independent Budget Office (IBO) recently reported that charters actually have lower attrition rates than comparable neighborhood schools. There are other critiques that I won’t enumerate here, but those too generally fall apart under closer scrutiny.

I actually found it interesting that, in the ongoing public debates about charters, neither De Blasio nor James have suggested that New York City charter schools aren't effective. (The test score data, which shows that students at Success Academy often performing 60 and 70 percentage points higher on statewide tests, is probably too stark to make this case.) I agree that this issue is complicated and there are equity issues that must be sorted out, and I thought the Cuomo quote played by Lehrer summed up this point nicely. Basically, he suggested that the public school system is already not working for far too many children and charter schools represent a better option worth exploring; accordingly, he argued that we should be able to find workable solutions to address the legitimate concerns of critics. This is what I’d like to see: pragmatic problem-solving.

Mar. 11 2014 02:59 PM
Frank Church

Talk about a one sided issue. Charters tend to be corporate schools, a way to undermine public ones, which really will hurt poor folk and minorities. Diane Ravitch and Alfie Kohn are the experts on this. Make public schools better, more free, make teaching a profession, end testing, homework, grades, standards. John Dewey was right.

Mar. 11 2014 01:57 PM

I feel like children would do a better job at running NYC education system. We all know that when adults get involved we have this MESS to deal with. People should have options when choosing HOW they want to educate their children. MY issue is, WE as a city are not working together. It's obvious the UFT is getting slighted in some way due to charter schools but it's also obvious that sometimes charter schools are a better option for parents. My issue with SOME charter schools (HCZ & SUCCESS ACADEMY) is that they have become cash cows NOT beacons of education. Don't be fooled by Geoffery Canada and Eva Maskowitz they're just part of sub-culture, of people who have learned how to make money off of exploiting minority kids.

Mar. 11 2014 01:45 PM

Brian Lehrer made a serious mistake (and one that seems to show his bias on this issue) that "charter schools are public schools". This is a fiction that the privatizers love to promote. Charter schools are privately-owned, privately-operated entities that use public money. They are of course regulated, like, say private day-care centers. There are rules that they are supposed to follow but the jury is still out on whether they do that sufficiently or not. Most important, respected academic studies (Stanford) have shown that by and large on average those schools do no better than public schools; in many cases, they do worse; and in some (even fewer) cases, they do better. ALL at great costs to the general public school systems.

Mar. 11 2014 01:00 PM
CM from Brooklyn, NY

@ Joe in Brooklyn -

Finally someone going beyond the rhetoric. The whole debate is so frustrating b/c it is so partisan.

Mar. 11 2014 12:17 PM
Joe in Brooklyn

I for one thought the Lehrer’s interview was very informative. James was able to present her point of view and Lehrer’s asked her some tough questions to clarify her position. As a person who follows this issue closely, it is easy to see people on the other side of the issue in an uncharitable light. Charter school operators are represented as merely greedy or shills for privatization movement to smash public sector unions, and opponents of charter schools are merely grandstanding, politically-motivated hacks for the teacher’s unions. I’d like to think that we can argue this policy debate based on facts rather than ad hominem attacks.

In any case, my comment was really about James’s plan to produce impact statements. As everyone knows, the devil is in the details. An unduly cumbersome bureaucratic procedure could be used to indefinitely delay any co-locations. To be anything but a roadblock, reviews must be completed in a timely matter.

Certainly it makes sense to conduct a sensible review of proposed co-locations, but it is possible that charter school opponents will define bureaucratic rules that make virtually all co-location impossible. Consider James’s proposed standard regarding impact upon “arts and culture.” How should such standards be defined? Can any space whatsoever in a traditional public school be sacrificed to permit a co-location or are they all untouchable (even if the building is technically underutilized)? Are there any trade-offs that are acceptable or must every co-location be completely without any downside? In other words, are the standards for permitting a co-location to go forward going to be set impossibly high? More importantly, who should decide what these specific standards should be?

And, finally, how much local control should there be over these decisions? Assuming that a more rigorous bureaucratic review process is put in place, should then local opposition – which might be ginned up by outside charter opponents – be permitted to stop what could be regarded as an objectively sound policy decision?

If the co-location decision-making process is indeed broken and we want to settle on a better process to make co-locations less contentious, all of these issues will need to be addressed.

Mar. 11 2014 11:32 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Seth - in fairness to you. I re-read the post of yours that I originally responded to, and you are right - I was chasing shadows - now I have no idea what you were for or against. So, I will admit defeat and revisit this when I get a master's degree.

I humbly suggest that you meet me half-way with more coherent theses in your future posts.

Mar. 11 2014 11:06 AM

If all the loud mouths would just listen to the reasons that DeBlasio denied the oo-locations left from Bloomberg, they would learn that he made sensible decisions ON BEHALF OF THE CHILDREN. No elementary school should be co-located with higger grades! The risks are really too much to discuss here. Also, why donb't the hedge fund put mnoney into the public schools where the community is struggling. I am sick of hearing Eva Moskowitz talk about her concerns for children with her wasteful advertising and manipulation of the children for her own ends. I applaud our public advocate and hope that she gets a decent outcome for standards that the politically espoused Bloomberg failed us in--real concern for the young lives that hs stole seats and arts from to put Eva and her hedge $ in place. Bravo Diane Ravitch who knows what matters---children and good teachers.

Mar. 11 2014 10:35 AM

Sheldon, sorry that I took you seriously. Being flippant in return helped nothing. I'll try not to do that again. Please don't pretend that your one-liner could only be read in one way.

Mar. 11 2014 10:31 AM
sp from nyc

When charter schools enroll children in the same way as the public schools, I will believe they are public schools. Parents have to list all the schools they are interested in their children attending on one application, EXCEPT THE CHARTER SCHOOLS, then wait to see where they get in. Charter school enrollment is by individual school, so it automatically selects for parents with the wherewithal to get the application together. Although the charters claim enrollment is by lottery, it is skewed by who gets into the lottery. Following this effort at cherry-picking, they then proceed to push out any students they don't feel meet their standards (i.e., test poorly pon standardized tests, have behavioral or emotional, or physical problems). By any definition, these are private schools (true public schools, of course, must take all comers).Charter schools must be required to take and retain all children in the same way as public schools--only then will it be possible to fairly determine which schools have better outcomes

Mar. 11 2014 10:31 AM

"How about teaching parents to parent their kids too."

John, please consider the old saying about simple answers to complex problems. In a perfect world you'd be king. But that's not where we're at. Unfortunately, we have kids who birth kids, parents with drug problems, parents who don't speak the language, dad's who still cop to old school 'dad's don't do that' histories, parents who work 2 and 3 jobs just to survive, and the list goes on. There are just too many issues you'd like to ignore with your simplicity that it's impossible to have an inteligent debate with you.

Mar. 11 2014 10:28 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Seth - sorry to hear that. Perhaps you could do with a good public school education, to increase your rather limited range in cognition.

Mar. 11 2014 10:25 AM

Shawn, are you sure that's true? You do not seem to understand co-locations. They just pile up the kids in tighter and tighter spaces.

Mar. 11 2014 10:24 AM
steve from manhattan

George - school psychologist -- is exactly correct. Talk to the kids -- they DO feel the difference, even if they don't understand and mischaracterize the difference, between their school and the charter (or gifted and talented) school kids... The kids in the "normal" school view those in the "other" school as advantaged -- and I have personally heard them talking about the "rich kids", the "smart kids", and in one setting (and again, a mischaracterization -- but how they perceived and labeled it), the "white kids".

Charters by themselves are not the problem -- putting them within existing public schools is.

Mar. 11 2014 10:22 AM
Yvonne from New York

Wouldn't one group of kids feel inferior just by the sheer fact that their parents didn't 'win' a spot, therefore the charter school kids are winners and they're not?

Mar. 11 2014 10:22 AM

Sheldon, your rebuttal is so cryptic that I can't even understand what you're saying. sorry.

Mar. 11 2014 10:22 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Seth - good try. If all parents could choose to send their kids to a charter, I would agree with you. Sadly - that is not the case.

Mar. 11 2014 10:20 AM
Shawn from Bergen County

Assume no charter schools. Assume they were dissolved. Where would the kids go? Wouldn't there still be a space issue?

If anything these schools are decreasing class size, given more opportunity for teachers to spend time with disadvantaged students.

The people opposed to charter schools are just jealous, and would rather no one have a good education than a select few. This woman on the show makes no sense.

Mar. 11 2014 10:18 AM
john from office

Chater schools help the poor and "people of color" as progressives love to say. The special interests in the public schools hate them because they work.

How about teaching parents to parent their kids too. Ms. James is aiming for her "voters".

Mar. 11 2014 10:17 AM
carrie from Flatbush

Why can't educators with new ideas open alternative PUBLIC schools? Why do the new ideas need to come from charters?

Mar. 11 2014 10:17 AM

Don't charter schools just separate the kids with parents who have time to care and be involved from the kids who's parents don't have the time or resources (language knowledge, etc.) to care about their kids?

It's not about rich and poor, it's about the kids who don't have a great homelife, don't have involved parents, or don't have the best adults around them.

Charters eliminate the osmosis of learning by elevating the minority of supported kids from the majority of parent-challenged kids.

Mar. 11 2014 10:12 AM
Maria McGrath from Brooklyn

Thank goodness Letitia James is still trying to protect public schools and students. The former mayor rammed the co-locations through, and DeBlasio has not done enough to stand up to the charter operators. Letitia James is on the right side of this issue.

Mar. 11 2014 10:10 AM

Jay f
Elected junta to you.

Mar. 11 2014 10:10 AM

Come on, Jay. Lift yourself up out of the mud pit. You're better than "junta".

Mar. 11 2014 10:06 AM
Seth Peckstiff

But Martin, that is you, isn't it? A know it all, but somone so angry knowing that the rest of the world is on the other side of almost ever issue you care about? It must really piss you off to know that one day soon you'll be serving under a Mayor James administration. But that's why you're a regular listener -- to feel alive with your anger.

Mar. 11 2014 10:05 AM
Jay F.

How many more years of the DeBlasio Junta?

Mar. 11 2014 10:03 AM
Robert from NYC

Let Evil Mosocowitz pay for the space she uses. In fact let her build schools for her, well, schools! Why should she profit off of the tax payer's school spaces! And tell Cuomo he's on the wrong side. He says nothing they've tried has worked to help the public school system so he supports these for-profit schools? No if he thinks they're system works then apply that system to the public schools! Shmk1

Mar. 11 2014 09:40 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Eva Moskowitz, has been eating DeBlasio for dinner, by totally controlling the recent public narrative; the big bad duo of the Teacher's Union and a vindictive leftist Mayor are conspiring to crush her little charter school chickens.

The contrarian arguement that these charters may be taking badly needed space, thus displacing just as deserving, mostly poor and minority special needs kids, whch Moskowitz could care less about, and the fact that DeBlasio approved space for most of her schools, has been totally eclipsed.

Enter Ms. James. Best of luck to her with her lawsuit. I will wait to hear her speak on its merits. However, I'm a little suspicious of her timing. It makes me wonder how independent her office is of the Mayor's.

Mar. 11 2014 08:57 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

I only posted the first item, but flattered to have a personal stalker posting fake entries here at WNYC.
LOL, sorry that you don't like the issues raised.

Mar. 11 2014 08:24 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

In fact I DON'T understand why I don't have a radio show. I know everything before the fact. LOL.

Mar. 11 2014 08:04 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

I alerted this show to the lawsuit last Wednesday. And if that isn’t revenge enough: James now also wants to suspend the 2014-2015 lottery for any schools that she can’t destroy.
This is ADVOCACY by the “Public Advocate”??? This helps the underserved?
(Out-of-control vicious bullying by another union ideologue drunk on power is a better description. No doubt, this grandstander will be the next mayor and the “World’s Greatest City” will become even more of a rule-by the-street-rabble joke.)

Why suspend the lottery … how are the remaining schools harming anyone?


Mar. 11 2014 07:28 AM

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