Eva Moskowitz’s crisis day

Eva Moskowitz. ()
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Eva Moskowitz stood before an auditorium filled with Success Academy parents in Harlem Thursday afternoon and told them the crisis for her charter schools she had long predicted from a de Blasio administration had arrived.

"This has to be the saddest day in Success Academies' history," she yelled into a microphone, shaking her head. "The saddest day."

The hundred or so parents she had gathered gave her a loud round of applause.

The upheaval to Moskowitz's schools that had so long been hypothetical became real when the Department of Education announced Thursday that it would reverse three planned co-locations involving the Success network that had been approved under the Bloomberg administration.

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To hear Moskowitz tell it, it was Success' D-Day.

"It is stunning and heartbreaking to come before you as a parent of three, of two middle school children, and as the leader and founder of Success Academies," she told parents of middle schoolers at Success Harlem 4. "I could never have imagined that I would be standing here before you, telling you that the mayor wants to close a high-performing school."

She told reporters on Thursday that there is no contingency plan yet for the students affected by the co-location reversal, and that Success is not yet planning any legal action against the administration.

Moskowitz's schools had eight co-location proposals total up for review, five of which were approved. Two of the Success proposals that were canceled involve schools planned for Lower Manhattan and Jamaica that have not yet opened.

But the decision on Harlem 4 in particular was, for Moskowitz, the the culmination of a crisis that she has been warning of for the better part of a year.That decision reversed a co-location of grades five, six and seven of currently operational Success Harlem 4 into a nearby school, effectively leaving about 350 current students without middle school spots for the fall, Moskowitz said.

Late last year Moskowitz organized tens of thousands of Success parents and students to rally in a show of strength for then-candidate Bill de Blasio, who promised to give charters--and Moskowitz in particular--less favorable treatment than the Bloomberg administration had.

But until now, even as de Blasio vowed to put a moratorium on charter co-locations and to charge certain charter networks rent, the threats were theoretical. Despite the near-weekly pro-charter rallies and Moskowitz's public expressions of existential anxiety about her schools, the city's twenty-two Success Academies operated normally.

Moskowitz had been relatively politic in publicly attacking de Blasio, dodging reporters' questions about an all-out charter war and instead attempting to align her message with the mayor's, insisting that Success' high-performing schools, which enroll mostly black and Hispanic children in low-income neighborhoods, could help reduce the gap between de Blasio's oft-discussed "two cities."

But in a press conference following her meeting with parents, Moskowitz, who served on the City Council with de Blasio, did not hold back.

"You're going to have to ask Mayor Bill de Blasio for the motviations for a decision that will affect so many children now and forever," she said."Here we have a successful, educational, magical school community and someone wants to turn us out into the street."

De Blasio has made Moskowitz a frequent target of scorn, declaring during the primary that there's "no way in hell that Eva Moskowitz should get free rent, OK?" and saying at a debate over the summer that she must no longer be "tolerated, enabled, supported" by the city.

Parents, the school's principal, and students spoke at the press conference on Thursday, some crying as they lambasted de Blasio.

Moskowitz is closing all 22 of her schools for the day to attempt to rally support in Albany, and has asked teachers to provide instruction to students on buses up to the Capitol. She has also asked parents to take the day off work, which she acknowledged could be inconvenient, or "a hardship," in order to attend the rally.

(The rally is planned for the same day as a large demonstration in favor of de Blasio's pre-K plan, which has been in the works for months.)

But Moskowitz's tactics, coupled with the fact that she is now the only charter leader with a network seemingly under direct threat from the mayor, may be separating her from the city's other, smaller charter schools.

A coalition of eighteen independent charters have opted out of participating in the upcoming rally, writing, "Tuesday is not a day to be divided," in a letter reported by ChalkBeat. 

For Moskowitz, there's no going back.

"The mayor just announced today that he's going to close our beloved schools," she said in her meeting with parents. "It is unthinkable. It is unconscionable."