Hundreds of Wall Streeters gathered at Cipriani in Midtown Manhattan last night to raise funds for Success Academy — the charter school network that’s been battling with Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush gave the keynote address and former CNN journalist Campbell Brown was honored.
The dinner was chaired by hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb, the founder of Third Point LLC. Loeb is the chairman of the board for Success Academy.
“I hope this does not create too much controversy if I say this, but I know that Governor Bush came to the state of New York out of love,” Loeb said, referring to comments Bush made earlier this month on immigration.
Loeb said that the evening wasn’t about politics, but about possibility that comes from education and innovation.
Even though the evening wasn’t “about politics,” Bush’s speech on Success Academy and education reform sounded almost like a campaign speech. He even called out Mayor Bill de Blasio and the teachers unions.
“You would think they would celebrate … Instead, the teachers unions have treated you like a virus that must be contained,” he said, touting the Success Academy students’ top test scores in maths and language arts.
Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio — who received the teachers union endorsement during his mayoral campaign — revoked plans to open three new Success Academy charter schools. The schools had been approved during to the Bloomberg administration to co-locate in public school buildings rent-free.
After months of fighting, Success Charters, which is run by former NYC Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, has finally found new homes for those charter schools. New York-based law firms Arnold & Porter, Paul Weiss and Kirkland & Ellis all helped by providing pro bono services.
“Mayor de Blasio tried to block three academies from moving into public school buildings,” said Bush. “Now look, I’ve been out of office for a while. I don’t really understand this new political environment. It’s a little wacky right now based on what I can tell. By the way, the people in the press are here so don’t exaggerate what I just said, please,” he joked as the audience broke into laughter.
“The simple fact is, though, that it’s not very logical when you campaign on a platform of ensuring that every child gets a great education and then you try to deny access to the very schools that are meeting that goal? I’m missing something,” he continued.
Bush said that the success of charter schools is a threat to the failed status quo in public education.
According to Loeb, last night’s second annual gala raised at least $US7.75 million for Success Charters.
Loeb is one of a handful of fund managers that’s become heavily involved in education reform efforts, particularly by working with charter schools.
Success’ founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz said that Loeb is someone who always has “great ideas” and is “incredibly engaged” when it comes to charter schools.
She said that he thought of introducing the game of chess in Kindergarten. The Success Academy fifth graders now read the New York Times every day (the Wall Street Journal is a little too difficult for that age group, according to Moskowitz). The students have also incorporated finance into the curriculum and they got to visit the New York Stock Exchange thanks to Loeb.
Campbell Brown, who was honored for her work advocating on behalf of charter schools, said that Loeb is like a Marine when it comes to fighting for charter schools.
“Dan Loeb has been a great partner in crime for the last couple of years and nobody is more dedicated to this cause than he is,” Brown said. “When I think of Dan Loeb, I think of the phrase used to describe is the U.S. Marine’s, ‘There is no better friend and no worse enemy.'”