Saturday, May 20, 2023

Success Academy files legal papers, asking to intervene in co-location lawsuit and complaining that DOE has not been sufficiently supportive of their expansion

On March 28, 2023, parents, teachers and the UFT filed a lawsuit against two planned co-locations of Success charter schools proposed for a middle school in Queens and a high school complex in Brooklyn.  The lawsuit pointed out that the Educational Impact Statements required by state education law were inadequate and erroneous, because they didn't take into account the need to lower class size according to the new state law. In fact, the EIS's explicitly relied upon an assumption that current class sizes at the existing schools would remain unchanged, forever.  More about the lawsuit including links to the papers, including my affidavit, is here.

Neither did the any of the Educational Impact Statements the DOE created in preparation for the public hearings and the PEP vote attempt to describe the actual educational impact on students of these co-locations, which in the case of the Queens middle school includes the loss of their science lab, and for both sets of schools, losing critical space for students with special needs to receive their mandated services.  The lawsuit was assigned to Judge Lyle Frank, who had earlier ruled for parents and against DOE in last summer's budget cuts lawsuit.  

On April 18, nearly three weeks later, Success Academy sued to intervene in the lawsuit.  Judge Frank ruled against them, and said they had nothing to offer in terms of information that was relevant to any of the arguments in the case, and their intervention would likely further delay the time-sensitive need to resolve the lawsuit.  

But then Success appealed his decision to the Appellate Court, which is now due to hear their argument in court.  Their  brief claims that DOE officials cannot be entrusted to represent their interests, as  they haven't sufficiently supported their efforts to continually expand charter schools, in their ever-growing empire.   Their full brief is here; an excerpt is below.  Here is the opposition Appellate brief to their intervention, filed by the plaintiffs' attorneys.

Respondents [the DOE]  have  authorized  the  co-location  of two Success Academy Schools in part because they have a legal obligation to do so.   See New York Education  Law  2853(e)(1).  However,  mere  compliance  with  the  law  by  providing Success Academy  with  a  co-location  does  not  necessarily  mean  that  Respondents  are  strongly incentivized  to  see  that  co-location  upheld.    To  the  contrary,  Respondents  have  been  quite ambivalent  about  charter  schools  in  general  and  co-locations  in  particular,  going  so  far  as  to criticize the Governor for proposing authorization for additional charter schools, and specifically pointing to the cost of co-locations on Respondents’ budget.

And then they link to this NY1 piece, which cites the OMB memo showing that adding 100 new NYC charter schools as Gov. Hochul proposed would cost the city about $1.3 billion, and that  Chancellor "Banks acknowledged the price tag, but otherwise tried to stay out of the fray."  

Of course, unmentioned here is how DOE has been avidly identifying parochial and public buildings for Success charters this year, including "finding an empty public school building in Queens for two, and a recently closed Catholic school in The Bronx for the other," according to the NY Post

Moreover, the DOE continues to lease entire buildings for Success at a projected cost of more than $9.5 million this year; having paid more than $60 million for these buildings since 2014.  If they'd only asked Success to lease the buildings themselves, DOE would have be able to receive 60% reimbursement from the state for these expenses.  (See DOE charter lease report here.)

In addition, rather than acquiring any of the buildings of other closing parochial schools or charter school buildings to make space for smaller classes for public school students, or to provide a new home for the Young Women's Leadership School so that the West Side HS students wouldn't be evicted from their own building, they told a PEP member that they needed to reserve those other empty spaces for new or expanding charter schools that may open in the future. 

But I guess this isn't enough for Success Academy and Eva Moskowitz, who expects the DOE to sacrifice the needs of their own students for the sake of the charter network's aggressively expansionist goals, now and forever.

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