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Queens Chronicle

Lawsuits abound over NYC charter schools

Success Academy, public advocate may force debate into courtroom

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Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2014 10:30 am

While Mayor de Blasio has been criticized for his rescinding of several co-locations for new charter schools last week, some, including Public Advocate Letitia James, believe he hasn’t gone far enough.

But the charter school group affected by the decision said it would fight the city in court to have the co-locations reinstated.

The city Department of Education approved 14 of the 17 new charter school co-locations that were OK’d by the Bloomberg administration last year. The three that were rescinded were Success Academy Charter locations, one of which was to open at August Martin High School in South Jamaica.

The decision led charter school advocates, led by Success Academy Charter CEO Eva Moskowitz, a former Democratic councilwoman, to lead a march in Albany last week that was attended by Gov. Cuomo, who promised to fight the DOE’s decision. Moskowitz filed a federal civil rights suit Monday against the city to have the three cancelled co-locations reinstated after threatening to do so before the decision was announced.

“This would be tragic, unfair, and, we believe, illegal,” Moskowitz said in a letter to Success Academy board members last month.

In the meantime, parents are filing complaints with the state Education Department.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fari–a said under new DOE policy, co-locations would not be approved if they compromise space for special needs students, which she said these co-locations do. Two, including the August Martin school, were controversial because they placed the charter schools, which would serve students as young as five years old in high schools where students are as old as 20. De Blasio and Fari–a have said they would find space for the third in Harlem, but didn’t speak on the other two.

James is among those who think the DOE should have gone further. She is suing to block all new charter school co-locations and the suit has the support of Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan, Bronx).

In a statement, James Merriman, CEO of the New York Charter School Center, blasted James’ decision to move the suit forward.

“Enough is enough: Stop putting ideology before kids,” he said. “The destructive tactics mentioned today by the public advocate’s legal team, including postponing this year’s lottery or postponing enrollment at any pre-approved collocated charter schools, would create havoc and uncertainty for tens of thousands of New York City families from low-income communities.”

De Blasio predicted that the city would emerge victorious in James’ suit.

Some Council members want the other co-locations reviewed, while Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) also asked the mayor to go further in restricting new charter schools.

“I have seen first-hand the discriminatory effects that charter schools have on communities such as mine in Southeast Queens,” Miller said in a letter to de Blasio and Fari–a. “Those families who were not lucky enough to win this game of educational roulette are forced to send their children to underfunded public schools, institutions that receive hundreds of dollars less in funding per child compared to charters. I oppose this corporatization of public schools – our children are not for sale.”

He also asked them to rescind the co-locations of a charter school at IS 59 in Springfield Gardens and a new non-charter school at Campus Magnet in Cambria Heights, which were allowed to go through.

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