Parents Sue New York State Over Charter School Funding in Landmark Case

Posted by on 09 / 16 / 2014 0 Reactions

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New York State’s method of funding public charter schools, which gives charter students as little as three-fifths of what district students receive in the same community, violates the state Constitution and disproportionately affects children of color and lower incomes, a landmark lawsuit filed today says.
 
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Contact: Jessica Mokhiber, jmokhiber@necharters.org, 518-573-0516
 
Parents Sue New York State Over Charter School Funding in Landmark Case
Brown v. New York Says Funding Scheme Unconstitutional, Discriminates Against Children of Color and Lower Incomes
 
Buffalo, NY – New York State’s method of funding public charter schools, which gives charter students as little as three-fifths of what district students receive in the same community, violates the state Constitution and disproportionately affects children of color and lower incomes, a landmark lawsuit filed today says.
 
The lawsuit was filed in State Supreme Court in Erie County by four Buffalo families and one Rochester family, whose children attend charter schools. The suit is filed on behalf of 107,000 charter school children statewide as well as 50,000 children on charter school waiting lists.
 
“For all but the most privileged families, Buffalo and Rochester are educational deserts that starve our most vulnerable children of all meaningful access to the American dream,” the lawsuit states. “In these cities, a ‘sound basic education’ is in short supply, and public charter schools offer a glimmer of hope for many families, but the ability of these charter schools to meet this profound need is stymied by an unconstitutional funding scheme.”
 
The lawsuit, filed with the support and assistance of the Northeast Charter Schools Network (NECSN), asks the Courts to declare that the funding formula denies charter children equal treatment under the law, fails the “sound basic education” test, and is discriminatory because of its disproportionate impact on minority students.
 
“New York’s charter students receive a fraction of what their friends in district schools receive—that’s unfair, unconstitutional, and discriminatory,” said NESCN Interim President Kyle Rosenkrans. “And because the formula provides no money for buildings, charters must divert their already shortchanged classroom dollars to pay the rent.”
 
The impact of this disparity and deprivation of rights is staggering.
  • A total of 107,000 children attend charters statewide and more than 50,000 children are on charter school waiting lists.
  • Ninety percent of charter school students are black and Hispanic vs. 41 percent in district schools.
  • Some 80 percent of charter school children are considered economically disadvantaged vs. 52 percent in regular district schools statewide.
In Buffalo, the disparity between charter school students and district students is much worse.
The law firm of Herrick and Feinstein, and local firm Connors and Vilardo of Buffalo, are representing NECSN and the charter school families. The lawsuit was filed in New York State Supreme Court in Erie County.
Northeast Charter Schools Network Legal Director Harold Hinds said, “There is no moral or ethical reason why a Buffalo charter school child should be funded at 3/5th of what a Buffalo district child gets. The state also denies charters access to building aid. This is about fairness. Charter schools offer a glimmer of hope for many families. But the ability of these schools to meet this profound need is blocked by an unconstitutional funding scheme.”
 
Tishawn Walker is a ninth grade student at Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School (BASCS).  He attended a district school until seventh grade. His grandmother, Michelle Emanuel, was concerned about his academic success there, and enrolled him in a charter school.
 
“At my old school, I learned almost nothing except the things I taught myself. My new school is different. I like that my teachers at BASCS are more strict,” said Walker. “They don’t take excuses for not performing. They make sure that everyone in the class understands what is being taught. They make sure we all understand what we are learning, and they don't leave anyone behind.”
 
Buffalo-area parent Ingrid Johnson-Jacobs said, “My daughter Giselle is a third grade student at Elmwood Charter School. Giselle is thriving here, and reaching her full potential, thanks to her incredible teachers. I know she would not be achieving the same academic success in a district school. But why should she receive less funding than kids in district schools? It is absurd to think that our children are being cheated in this way. This needs to be remedied -- for my child and for the all the other children who are being treated unfairly.” 
 
Rochester parent Maria Dalmau enrolled her two daughters at Eugenio Maria de Hostos Charter School.
“If you need proof that charter schools work, just look at our scores,” said Dalmau. “Charter schools are the only opportunity most inner city children have to an education of excellence. Every child deserves an opportunity like the one my daughters have.
“But as good as charter schools are, the reality is that we do it with very limited resources. This lawsuit addresses just that. As a charter school parent, I demand for my daughters the same benefits that district students have.”
 
Denise Stevens’ daughter, Unique Brown, is a seventh grader who attends King Center Charter School. “I really believe that no child should be left behind. That’s how King Center is. They really don’t leave their kids behind. The teachers put so much effort into their students’ education. They go above and beyond. It’s more than a job for these teachers. They have the patience and the dedication that you don’t see every day.”
 
Russell Bell, whose three students attend King Center Charter School, said, “We did a lot of research before deciding where to send our three kids to school.  King Center Charter School has  leadership  we admire. The teachers there take the time to work with the parents and the families so  the children can achieve academic success. I sincerely wish more children have the opportunities my children have.”
 
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 200 charter schools in New York and Connecticut. Its mission is to support and expand high quality charter schools in the region.
 915 Broadway, Suite 110, Albany NY, 12207
 
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