Families in Brown v. New York funding lawsuit respond to state’s attempt to dismiss case, asking judge: Give Us Our Day In Court

Posted by on 02 / 25 / 2015 0 Reactions

The families bringing the Brown v. New York lawsuit – which challenges the state’s charter school funding scheme as unconstitutional and discriminatory – today asked a judge to deny New York State’s request to dismiss the case.
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Contact: Jessica Mokhiber, 518-573-0516jmokhiber@necharters.org
For media inquiries in Buffalo: Terrence M. Connors (716) 852-5533

Families in Brown v. New York funding lawsuit respond to state’s attempt to dismiss case, asking judge: 

Give Us Our Day In Court

“Profoundly unjust” for state to deny charter school students fair funding simply because they exercise their right to choose something better
Albany, NY – The families bringing the Brown v. New York lawsuit – which challenges the state’s charter school funding scheme as unconstitutional and discriminatory – today asked a judge to deny New York State’s request to dismiss the case.
The families from Buffalo and Rochester said in court papers that it is “profoundly unjust to deny students adequate funding simply because they chose something other than failure.”  (Read memo here: ‪http://bit.ly/Brief_in_Opposition_to_Motion_to_Dismiss)
The Brown v. New York lawsuit says that the state’s method of funding charter schools is unconstitutional and deprives students in charter schools their rights to equal protection under the law.
The plaintiffs include five charter school families from Buffalo and Rochester with seven students between them in grades two through nine. The lawsuit was filed with the support of the Northeast Charter Schools Network (NECSN). (For more on Brown v. New Yorkhttp://www.necharters.org/case_summary).
Brown v. New York was filed last fall in State Supreme Court in Buffalo, where the gap in funding between charter school children and children in traditional district schools is the most severe. In Buffalo, charter students see only 3/5 of the funding that students in traditional district schools receive. In Rochester, charter students only see 68 cents on the dollar compared to other public school students. Statewide, charter students receive about 25% less in funding than other public school students. Additionally, all charter schools outside New York City – and 40% of the charters within New York City -- are denied access to state facilities funding.
In their response, the families petition the judge for their day in court, stating:
  • The disparity in funding charter school students and the total denial of access to state facilities funding have harmed charter schools and charter school students.
  • The Buffalo and Rochester school districts are chronically struggling, and that charter schools provide the only real option for students to receive a decent public education.
Northeast Charter Schools Network CEO Kyle Rosenkrans said, “Year after year, Buffalo and Rochester city school districts fail by every measure imaginable.  The families who have filed this lawsuit had nowhere else to turn when they enrolled their children in charter schools – it was the only path toward a good education but yet they’re still being treated as though they’re less than all other public school students.  These children should be funded equitably under the law and they should have their day in court. We respectfully ask that this case not be dismissed.”
The law firm of Herrick, Feinstein LLP, and the Buffalo-based law firm Connors & Vilardo, LLP, are representing NECSN and the charter school families. 
Buffalo attorney Terrence M. Connors said, “Our city is experiencing a rebirth and the excitement is palpable. But we will never achieve true momentum until our education systems catch up.  Charter schools are working in Buffalo and should be appropriately supported.”
Lead attorney, Susan Dwyer of Herrick, Feinstein LLP, said, “Every family deserves quality education options for their children, and these families deserve to have their day in court. Shutting the courthouse doors on these children and telling them to attend persistently failing schools is simply unjust and unfair. Charter schools provide the only real opportunity for so many families in Buffalo and Rochester. It is only fair that they are given the support guaranteed to them by the New York State Constitution.”
The response sent to the court today notes comments from Governor Cuomo, who earlier this month told the Buffalo News: “It’s amazing that anybody still lives in the City of Buffalo and would send their kid to a pubic school and expect a different outcome, because there’s no evidence that there’s going to be a different outcome.”
Northeast Charter Schools Network Legal Director Harold Hinds said, “The state’s motion to dismiss should be denied. There is no moral or ethical reason why a Buffalo charter school student should be funded at 3/5th of what a Buffalo district student gets. This is about fairness. Charter schools offer hope for many families but this unfair funding formula denies them the chance to reach their full potential.”
Plaintiff Russell Bell, whose three students attend King Center Charter School in Buffalo, said, “My wife and I have had children attend both traditional district schools in Buffalo and charter schools in the city, but right now, there is no great option besides charter schools – and we’re lucky we have this option. But our kids are still being shortchanged, and that’s an injustice. We hope the court agrees that this case should be heard.”
Buffalo grandmother Michelle Emanuel, also a plaintiff, was concerned about her grandson’s education in the Buffalo city schools and enrolled him at the Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School (BASCS).
“I want my grandson, Tishawn Walker, to reach his full potential, and he’s on his way to doing that at BASCS,” she said. “But I know that he is only receiving a fraction of what other students receive, and that is simply not fair. We are due our day in court. I hope the judge allows that – not just for Tishawn, but for all of the children being denied their fair share, and for all of those who are being denied a good education.”
Buffalo parent and plaintiff Ingrid Knight said, “My daughter Giselle is a third grade student at Elmwood Charter School where she is thriving. But it is absurd to think that I had any other choice besides enrolling her in a charter school. When you live in a failing district, you really don’t have much of a choice. It’s my hope that this case has a chance to be heard.”
Rochester parent Maria Dalmau, a plaintiff, enrolled her two daughters at Eugenio Maria de Hostos Charter School.
“We live in a struggling district, and every day I am thankful that my girls were lucky enough to get a seat at Eugenio Maria de Hostos,” said Dalmau. “It’s a great school, and a great option for us when we felt like we had no other options – but our school still needs help, and our students deserve fair funding. Can you imagine how great the school would do if it received facilities aid or more equitable funding for its students? I hope the court believes our case should be heard.”
Plaintiff Denise Stevens’ daughter, Unique Brown, is a seventh grader who attends King Center Charter School.
Stevens said, “I am fighting for my daughter so that she has a better education than I did. I want her to achieve her dreams. It bothers me that she is funded as less of a student than kids in traditional schools, and that is why we’re part of this lawsuit. I hope we have a chance to see it proceed.”
For more information on this lawsuit, go to www.necharters.org/brownvny.
About the Northeast Charter Schools Network:
 The Northeast Charter Schools Network is a regional advocacy organization for the more than 250 charter schools in New York and Connecticut. Its mission is to support and expand high quality charter schools in the region.
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