Judge in Brown v. New York Charter Funding Lawsuit Hears Arguments About Why Parents Should Have Their Day in Court

Posted by on 05 / 14 / 2015 0 Reactions

State Supreme Court Justice Donna Siwek today heard arguments in the landmark Brown v. New York lawsuit, which challenges the state’s charter school funding scheme as unconstitutional and discriminatory.
For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 14, 2015
Contact: Jessica Mokhiber, 518-573-0516, jmokhiber@necharters.org
Parents: It’s “profoundly unjust” for New York State to deny our children fair funding just because we exercise right to another school, and then to try and dismiss our case
Buffalo, NY – State Supreme Court Justice Donna Siwek today heard arguments in the landmark Brown v. New York lawsuit, which challenges the state’s charter school funding scheme as unconstitutional and discriminatory.
In court, attorneys for the Western New York parents argued against the state’s motion to dismiss the suit.
“We deserve our day in court,” said Buffalo charter parent Ingrid Knight.  “Our children deserve fair funding for their education and the hope of a better future.”
Brown v. New York says that the state’s charter school funding scheme is unconstitutional and deprives students in charter schools with adequate funding. 
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 facilities funding.
Coincidentally, today’s arguments come just days before the 61st anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which struck down separate but unequal schools as unconstitutional.
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 last fall with the support of the Northeast Charter Schools Network (NECSN). (For more on Brown v. New Yorkhttp://www.necharters.org/case_summary).
In court papers filed by the plaintiffs earlier this year in opposition to the state’s motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs state that it is “profoundly unjust to deny students adequate funding simply because they chose something other than failure.”  
Northeast Charter Schools Network Legal Director Harold Hinds said, “These brave families should have their day in court. 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 and equity for all of our state’s charter school children. Charter schools offer a glimmer of hope for many families stuck in struggling school districts, but this unfair funding formula denies them the chance to reach their full potential.”
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 charter school children should be appropriately supported.”
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. There’s no reason she should be funded as less of a student than kids in traditional schools, and that is why we’re part of this lawsuit. It’s unfortunate that the state wants this case dismissed because my daughter and all children like her deserve a chance for it to proceed.”
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 shortchanged, and for all of those who are being denied a good education.”
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. My children should not be treated any differently than other public school children just because I found a better option for them. I hope the court believes our case should be heard.”
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 King Center. But our kids are still being shortchanged, and that’s an injustice. We hope the court agrees that this case should continue.”
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. 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.
“We asked the court today to recognize what the law states: charter schools are public schools. Children who attend public schools are entitled to the right to an education that the state's highest court has ruled must include funding for their school buildings. Leaving children who attend charter schools without funds for school buildings is a violation of their basic constitutional rights.”
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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