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New York State Blocks "Victory" Charter on Long Island

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Maybe the politicians finally understand. Last week the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which makes recommendations to the New York State Department of Education, decided not to support a charter school proposed by Victory Education Partners in Brentwood. According to a report in Newsday , the superintendent of Brentwood schools "applauded the state's decision." The district is already financially hard-pressed. It lost $40 million in state aid during the last two years and was forced to lay off about 100 teachers.

SUNY officials told "Victory" that it was not satisfied with proposals for the school's "governing structure, academic program and accountability platform." Unfortunately "Victory," a profit making business, is not good at accepting defeat and plans to revise and resubmit its proposal, for Brentwood or perhaps for another Suffolk County community. Victory Education Partners advertises itself as an educational management company. For ten percent of state and local funding for a school, it group provides teacher recruitment, administrative coaches, accounting work and other services. The company would have made about $2.2 million over five years for its services to a Suffolk County Prep Charter School.

Not only should New York State cease to approve future school management contracts for Victory Education Partners, it needs to shut the company down. Since 1999, Victory has managed 13 New York charter schools and it continues to run seven of them. Most of them began when community or church groups discovered the charter management company and signed five-year contracts for their services.

The secret to "Victory" approach is its CEO, James Stovall, a personable African-American lawyer who is primarily a salesman. He uses his own success story to sell private charter management to poor minority communities. His supposed educational experience was an Eli Broad Foundation residency but, according to the foundation's alumni website, what Stovall actually did during his residency was act as "general counsel for Victory where he oversaw and directed the company's legal, compliance and regulatory activities."

The reality is that Victory Education Partners has been associated with a series of education failures. The New York State Regents shut down Victory's New Covenant Charter School in Albany in 2010. Two of the high schools it provides management services for in New York City, Lehman in the Bronx and August Martin in Queens are on the Restart List. Its show place charter school, Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem, received the 15th-lowest score on the 2010 city progress report cards, ranking in the bottom one percent of all schools. It received "F' grades in the school environment and progress categories. Most of the school's teachers reported problems with order and discipline and they recently voted to unionize.

Stovall now wants his company involved in turning around failing New York City schools in the RESTART program. This plan only spells VICTORY for Stovall. It spells FAILURE for students trapped in schools his company manages.