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NYC kids with disabilities shortchanged by Success Academy charters: complaint


Success Academy founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz at a City Hall, June 12, 2018. (Jefferson Siegel / New York Daily News)

The Success Academy charter school network shortchanged kids with disabilities, according to a complaint filed with state Education Department officials Thursday.

Success Academy is the city’s largest charter school operator and its founder Eva Moskowitz is a politically connected former city councilwoman who was on the short list to serve as federal Education Secretary under President Trump.

The non-profit network of publicly funded charters currently enrolls 17,000 students at 47 schools.

Success students outperform the traditional public school kids on state exams but the network has been accused of pushing out difficult pupils and has been the subject of previous suits accusing them of mistreatment of kids with disabilities.

The complaint, filed by non-profit Advocates for Children, claims Success officials changed special education placements of students with disabilities against regulations and refused to comply with administrative hearing orders in special education cases.

“Students with disabilities do not give up their civil rights when they enter a charter school,” said Advocates for Children Executive Director Kim Sweet. “These laws exist to protect students with disabilities and guarantee parents a voice in their children’s education.”

The Advocates for Children complaint focuses on two students who were held back by Success Academy. It also names the city Education Department for failing to enforce rules regarding kids with disabilities enrolled at Success Academy schools.

Success Academy spokeswoman Anne Michaud said it’s not in the kids’ best interest to pass them along to the next grade when they haven't mastered the material in the prior one.

"This is really about the fact that some parents and Advocates for Children believe that there should be lower standards for promoting students with special needs,” Michaud said. “That is not the law nor should it be.”

Reps for the city and state Education Departments said they would review the complaint.