Three time zones and a charter-school universe away, in New York, Success Academy co-founder Eva Moskowitz recently announced plans to operate as many as 100 campuses within the next decade. To get there, she will rely on philanthropic backing from supporters like hedge-fund manager John Paulson, who with his wife, Jenny, announced an $8.5 million gift this summer toward Success Academy’s expansion.
Paulson’s donation is one of the largest ever received by the school—whose proven results with poor children have created extraordinary demand for its services. In 2015 statewide assessments, an astronomical 93 percent of Success students scored proficient in math and 68 percent scored proficient in reading. These rates placed Success Academy’s nearly all low-income and all minority students in the top 1 percent statewide in math and top 3 percent in reading.
Last year the network received over 22,000 applications for just 2,600 open seats at its existing 34 campuses. Paulson’s hope is that any student who wants to attend a Success Academy will eventually have a spot. That will require lots of expansion of the sort he has agreed to help with. In addition to helping with bricks and mortar, it’s likely that donors will also need to offer political defense and cover. Last year, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio tried to block three new Success Academy campuses. Donors quickly provided a defense fund, parents marched on Albany, and the state government required City Hall to cooperate with the charter schools. Donors also helped raise the cap that charter opponents instituted on the total number of charter schools allowed in New York City.