I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

UPDATED: This Blog Is Subsidized By Your Tax Dollars!

UPDATED BELOW

It may not be there now, but Success Academies - Eva Moskowitz's famous cream-skimming charter network, beloved by reformies everywhere - has been putting ads up on this blog.


Eva's schools get their money from huge management fees collected from New York State*, millions in grants made possible by tax preferences given for charitable contributions, sweetheart deals involving the use of public property, and, of course, the money that "follows the child" to the charter from the public schools.

All of these funds can be attributed either directly or indirectly to the taxpayer. And, apparently, the taxpayer has no problem paying me for advertising space on this blog so that Eva Moskowitz can recruit more teachers to her charter schools. Who-hoo! Looks like Mrs. Jazzman's gonna get to go to a place with cloth napkins the next time that Google AdSense money rolls in!

Of course, Success Academies is happy to spread money around to Madison Ave and K Street:
Last year alone, the network spent an astounding $883,119 on "student recruitment" - much of it for glossy flyers mailed to hundreds of thousands of parents; bus stop and Internet ads and an army of paid recruiters to go door-to-door soliciting student applications.
Even other charter schools rarely spend more than a few thousand dollars on student recruitment.
Meanwhile, Moskowitz's network spent another $1.3 million on what it described as "network events and community outreach."
It paid $243,150 to SKD Knickerbocker, a high-powered public relations firm, to supplement its own in-house press people, and another $129,000 to a Washington consulting firm founded by President Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod.
But that wasn't all that Success Academy spent on marketing itself.
The network's first seven schools incurred an additional $912,000 "student recruitment" expenditure last year, most of it going to big advertising and branding companies.
That's comes to more than $3.4 million spent on marketing and drumming up huge numbers of application forms - in just one year.
It is perhaps the most intense campaign to sell a group of charter schools in the history of education. [emphasis mine]
Hey, if Eva's going to be spreading around millions of your taxpayer dollars, why shouldn't this humble blogger get a taste? You guys are fine with Eva giving me your money, right?

This blog is brought to you by Chartery Secret Sauce!


* UPDATE: So it turns out the NYC charter industry has a problem with Juan Gonzalez's reporting, to which I linked above:
Let's be clear: neither the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, nor any other charter authorizer, determines how many taxpayer dollars go to charter schools. That amount is set by state law, through a per-pupil formula that is currently frozen at $13,527 in NYC. When any charter school enrolls a child, that's the amount that flows from NYC DOE, regardless of who operates the school. You can look it up.
Having received this funding, a charter school can choose to contract with a network such as Success, to pay a fee for a set of services related to the school's management. Since those fees are part of the school's agreement with its authorizer, the authorizer has an oversight role in approving any change in the fee agreement.
The "fees," in other words, are transfers within the charter school network, from individual schools to the network office. The "share of state education money" is unchanged.
This is not to say that this fee change, or any fee change, should be approved by the authorizer without scrutiny. Monitoring such arrangements is part of an authorizer's job, and if Gonzalez believes the fee change at Success will end up hurting its students, he should make that case.
On this basis, Michael Regnier of the NYC Charter School Center sent out two tweets, saying my post isn't accurate.

Regular readers know how anal I get about this stuff (usually, to a fault). I don't know if Gonzalez has responded directly to NYCCSC's complaint or not. But here's a later piece about the actual approval of the fee increase for Moskowitz's network, under Gonzalez's co-byline:
STATE UNIVERSITY of New York officials on Monday granted a hefty fee increase to the charter school company run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz.
The SUNY Board’s Charter Schools Committee decided — without a vote — to allow Harlem Success Academy Charter Schools to increase its per-pupil fee from $1,350 to $2,000 to run charter schools in Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn.
Committee Chairman Joseph Belluck said a vote was not needed because SUNY trustees had recently authorized the staff of its Charter Schools Institute to approve any management fee increases for charter schools.
The fee increase will not cost taxpayers additional money, but rather give Moskowitz’s company a larger share of the state dollars already headed to the schools.
Cynthia Proctor, a spokeswoman for the Charter Schools Institute, said the request was approved after a “rigorous” review determined it would not harm the fiscal health of the schools.
Moskowitz has argued her network was running a financial “shortfall” and needed the fee increase to maintain its high level of service. [emphasis mine]
So Gonzalez is sticking with the story that the money comes from the state. You can decide for yourself who's right; personally, I really couldn't care less.

Because my point here is pretty simple, and it's one Regnier doesn't seem to want to address: Eva Moskowitz is using taxpayer money to fund a public relations and recruiting campaign for her schools. And part of that money is going to snarky bloggers like yours truly.

Again: I'd like to thank the taxpayers of New York for subsidizing my (very) occasional nights out with Mrs. Jazzman, where I spend my Google AdSense money on buying her a nice dinner in the hopes that she lets me continue to blog. But does anyone think that's an appropriate use of public funds? Do Regnier and Moskowitz?

Bon appetit!

12 comments:

Deb said...

Love what you do with your ads Duke!

Michael Fiorillo said...

What a cozy, incestuous little world corporate education reform is, and how difficult it is to separate the enemies of teachers and public education from their ostensible friends and representatives.

SKD Knickerbocker was founded by Anita Dunn, Obama's former communications director. In addition to representing Eva Moskowitz's politically juiced charter empire, it also represents Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst and Kaplan. One of the firm's partners is Hillary Rosen, who is the former (sometimes reported as current) life partner of Randi Weingarten.

Karen Foster said...

As I got ready to write this, a K-12 ad was on here. I need to re-install my ad-blocker app.

Debbie said...

OMG! I thought I was informed... I had no idea about all of these "connections" among the players on both sides! Yikes!!

Duke said...

Michael, that's a heck of a comment. Will look into it.

Michael Fiorillo said...

Duke,

You and your readers may recall that it was Hillary Rosen who made the comment about Ann Romney never having worked a day in her life, back when folks actually thought the Republicans had a chance to win the 2012 Presidential election.

Norm Scott mentioned it briefly at the time in Ednotes.

Use The Google to look up SKD Knickerbocker/Hillary Rosen and it's all there, though it's a mite nauseating.

FromChiTown said...

As bad as that is, even worse, I think, is the ad up top that I'm seeing on your blog right now, which says, "Join Teach For America www.teachforamerica.org This Is Your Opportunity To Lead. Final Deadline to Apply: Feb 15!"

Leonie Haimson said...

Hillary Rosen is definitely former not currently involved w/ Randi.

computer1 said...

I think it is pretty clear. They are both wrong! In fact it comes from the students.

1) The charters receive the monies from the State for the purpose of educating the students
2) Success Academies the management increases it fees paid by the Charters
3) The charters pay a higher fee and therefore have less to spend on the students
4) The students have less monies designated for their education

Who really pays is the students!
But remember it's all about the children!

Michael Fiorillo said...

Leonie,

Yes, that's what I assumed, but some reputable sites had recently-dated posts stating otherwise, so I mentioned it.

Although it's been widely reported, I still was not entirely comfortable mentioning Randi's personal life, but it's material in that it's indicative of a very small, interlocking and inbred community of interest that has far too much say in how the schools are run.

A very small, interlocking and inbred community of interest, whose actions are having catastrophic effects on education, people's lives and the nation's future.

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