If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve.
William Tecumseh Sherman
Not exactly what Eva Moskowitz, the CEO of the Success Academy Charter Schools network announced on the steps of City Hall after her rally and recent TV ad campaign. Speculation has been rampant that Moskowitz will oppose de Blasio at the polls in 2017. Two years in advance of the election Eva announced she will not run, with a caveat, at this time.
The Success Academy Charter School network, founded in 2006, runs 34 schools scattered across the city. The network is richly funded through philanthropy and with the support of former Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein, and, Eva created a powerful lobbying arm. The Moskowitz-Klein emails, obtained through a FOIL request that was vigorously opposed by the Bloomberg administration shows that Klein acquiesced to every request/demand from Moskowitz. From school co-locations to funding, one wonder who was the chancellor, Klein or Moskowitz?
Eva Moskowitz was elected to the City Council, a reformer from the Upper East Side of Manhattan. New York City is a strong mayor form of local government. The mayor and the speaker of the council control the flow of legislation and the flow of dollars. Council members chair committees and hold hearings, some council members are primarily concerned with the needs of their districts, and others use the hearing process as a bully pulpit for one issue or another or, use their seat to prepare for the next step up the electoral ladder. Moskowitz became chair of the education committee. The occasional committee hearings would usually focus on the issue of the moment, perhaps, school safety, or some other issue that was in the news; Moskowitz used her pulpit to attack the teacher contract. The usual desultory council hearings sparked the anger of the teacher union and Eva’s hearings catapulted her to the spotlight.
Eva ran for Manhattan Borough President in a multi-candidate Democratic primary election. The union supported a Scott Stringer, an Assembly member from the Upper West Side who had learned politics at the foot of Bella Abzug, the very progressive member of Congress.
When the dust settled Stringer was victorious, and, has moved on to the Comptroller and perhaps an opponent of de Blasio in 2017.
With her electoral defeat Moskowitz moved to the charter school arena. Both on the education and the political side Moskowitz has become the darling of the ed reformers and the political right. The results of the Success Academy schools on state tests are impressive. The NY Daily News reports on the latest round of state test,
City students made modest gains on math and reading exams in 2015, posting slightly better scores for the second year in a row as record numbers of kids boycotted the tests.
In 2015, 35.2% of city kids in grades three through eight met state math standards, up from 34.2% in 2014. Likewise, 30.4% of city kids passed reading tests, up from 28.4% last year.
The city’s black and Hispanic students made slight gains in 2015, but the achievement gap faced by those kids worsened as they failed to keep up with citywide improvements.
Citywide, the portion of black students who met math standards rose from 18.6% in 2014 to 19.1% in 2015. Hispanic students jumped in math from 23.1% to 23.7%.
The city’s 196 charter schools outperformed traditional public schools on 2015 math tests but posted worse scores on reading exams. The same situation existed in 2014.
Charter school pass rates in reading jumped from 28% in 2014 to 29.3% in 2015. Likewise, city charter school math proficiency rose from 43.9% to 44.2%.
Former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Charter Schools posted some of the highest scores in the city, with 93% of students meeting math standards and 68% passing in reading.
Why are the Success Academy schools so successful? Diane Ravitch, based upon reports from Success Academy staffers paints a picture of a culture that encourages cheating, that is based solely on improving test scores, to the exclusion of the arts, high teacher turnover rates, policies that drive out low performers and “discipline problems” and recruits from among high “social capital” parents. The Success Academy scores are touted by the reformers, the criticism of her harsh treatment of kids and staffers has not gained traction and, agile use of the media has made her into an educational rock star on the right.
On the political side Moskowitz supporters have donated millions to both Cuomo and Republicans in the State Senate with results. A law requiring the NYC mayor to either co-locate charter schools or pay for private space, and, an increase in the cap.
Will Eva decide to run for Mayor next year?
All the political air is being eaten up by the presidential campaign – the race for the nomination running into the spring and the race for the White House in the summer and fall; he race for Gracie Mansion will not begin until after the November 2016 elections.
Moskowitz is a lifelong Democrat – can she defeat de Blasio in a Democratic primary election? Probably not.
A line of democrats, smelling blood, are investigating a run – from the current Comptroller Scott Stringer, the current Public Advocate, Letitia James to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and others. While the de Blasio polling might be poor putting together a campaign in a primary is difficult. Under the rules if a candidate does not reach 40% a runoff takes place among the top two contenders.
Eva’s chances would be much better to run in the November general election as a Bloomberg-type Republican. However, what are her positions on the non-education issues? Will her deep-pocketed supporters agree with her on the wide range of other issues? Her positions on social and economic issues may be indistinguishable from de Blasio?
Her meek “I’m not running” announcement buys her a year to stake out political ground, to create a persona beyond charter schools, and, a persona that is attractive to her hedge fund supporters. In the complex world of politics Eva’s hedge fund darlings may also be supporters of Hillary – if Hillary wins the White House would the hedge funders continue to support Eva?
Politics make for strange bed fellows (and via-versa) and Eva has a year to take the next step: Gracie Mansion, or, the Executive Mansion in Albany, or, with a Republican in the White House, Secretary of Education? The CEO of the Success Academy network is far too small a stage.