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City Council's charter school oversight hearing postponed (again)

A top city lawmaker has once again put off plans to inquire into the city’s charter schools.

City Council Education Chair Daniel Dromm said Tuesday that he is postponing a long-planned oversight hearing until May, just weeks after first delaying the hearing. He also said that he will be welcoming charter schools to testify, indicating a broader shift toward goodwill between some in city government and the charter school sector.

“There are charter schools that I am impressed with,” said Dromm, a former New York City teacher, in an interview on Tuesday.

Dromm made headlines in March when he said he’d hold a hearing in response to Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz’s decision to close her schools to send students to a political rally in Albany. Dromm said he was ”deeply concerned” about the closure and promised to use the council’s oversight powers to investigate the network’s political activities, private fundraising, and salaries for top officials.

Moskowitz has been the target of criticism from Dromm and Mayor Bill de Blasio because of her network’s aggressive expansion plans and her willingness to attack political opponents. Success board members were among the charter school backers who donated more than $800,00 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reelection bid, recent campaign finance filings show.

But the political landscape around charter schools has changed dramatically since de Blasio was elected, promising to charge rent to well-heeled charter management organizations. De Blasio earned a sharp rebuke from state lawmakers, who outlawed that possibility in a recent state budget deal, and from charter school supporters who mounted an influential campaign against the city’s initial decision to deny space to a Success Academy middle school.

A group of “community-based” charter schools is now in regular contact with City Hall. Dromm is also joining charter school leaders in Queens on Wednesday to discuss educational challenges facing English language learners.

Today, Dromm told Chalkbeat that he expected representatives from some of those “community-based” charter schools to appear at the council’s hearing, and that he never intended to single out Success. He said Moskowitz’s rally simply reminded him of a need to hold a broader oversight hearing, first scheduled for April 8.

But Dromm cancelled that first hearing four days before it was scheduled, just as de Blasio was seeking to ease tensions between the city and the charter school sector. Dromm said then he hoped to reschedule the hearing for April 24.

“I never meant to infer in any way that Eva [Moskowitz] was corrupt, but we want to look at all charter schools, transparency issues, shining a light on them,” Dromm said.

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