The city’s largest charter school network is requesting to add a record number of new schools in the next two years, moving ahead with plans to quickly expand across the city.
A spokeswoman for Success Academy Charter Schools said Tuesday that the network is requesting authorization to open 14 new schools in 2015 and 2016. The network is looking to expand into five new districts while also opening schools in areas where the network already has a presence, like the Upper West Side and central Brooklyn.
If its plans are approved by the SUNY Charter Institute, Success would open 10 of those schools simultaneously in fall 2016—a remarkable pace even for Eva Moskowitz, the network’s founder and CEO, who has long spoken of plans to widely expand the network. The 14 new schools would add to the six opening in fall 2014 and the 26 that Success currently operates to bring the network to 46 schools—roughly the size of the Savannah, Ga. school district.
Success schools have posted some of the city’s highest test scores, with 82 percent of its students scoring proficient in math and 58 percent scoring proficient in English language arts on state exams last year, both well above city and state averages. That success has helped the network become one of the city’s most popular, and polarizing, networks, with critics charging that the network has boosted its scores with aggressive test-prep tactics and by not replacing many students who leave.
The rapid expansion plan is also a sign of the network’s confidence that the city will find, or pay for, space for the schools. If approved, the schools would put additional pressure on the city to find public space for them, likely by co-locating the schools with traditional district schools.
Not doing so would mean spending millions to lease private spaces for the schools, following the passage of a new law that was partially spurred by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision in March to block three Success Academy schools from moving into public buildings.
Still, Chancellor Carmen Fariña has said she will not make school space-sharing plans until the city has developed a better way to solicit feedback from community members.
“It’s our goal to invest in all our public schools to make sure parents have great options for their children, regardless of what zip code they live in,” said Devora Kaye, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education. “We will review these new proposals as SUNY makes its decisions.”
Isaac Carmignani, co-president of District 30’s Community Education Council, said he wasn’t surprised that Success was looking to open a school in the district, which includes Astoria, Jackson Heights, and Long Island City, because the network had sought a charter there before.
But parents have concerns about whether the school might take some top students away from district schools, he said. Parents would also be concerned about possible co-locations, since many schools in the district already struggle with overcrowding, he added.
“The big concern I think that we have is if they go to a part of a district where schools are underutilized, they’d get the best and the brightest, and these schools are already struggling a little bit,” Carmignani said.
If the four new Success schools are approved, at least 17 new charter schools will open in the city in 2015. And if all 14 of the schools Success is requesting are approved, Success would secure nearly one-third of the 46 additional charter schools that can still open in New York City under state law.
Don’t miss the latest in New York City schools news. Sign up for Chalkbeat’s morning newsletter.