Right before the New Year, Judge Feinman ruled against our request for a preliminary injunction against the DOE’s provision of free space and services to charter schools, in the lawsuit that Class Size Matters, along with other parents and the NYC Parents Union, filed in July. His decision, which was publicly disclosed today, is posted here. Here is a fact sheet about the case.
One of the reasons he denied our request is that he determined that the payments of more than $100 million owed by the charter schools would not necessarily be used by the DOE to benefit our kids in any way or restore the egregious budget cuts their schools have suffered, so it was difficult to prove irreparable harm.
Nevertheless in his decision, he fired a shot across the bow to DOE & the charter school industry, saying that they should not take this as any sort of signal that when the case comes to trial, he will necessarily rule in their favor.
Below is the press statement we put out with the NYC Parents Union. Happy New Year to all!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 3, 2012
Mona Davids, NYC Parents Union, (917) 340-8987
Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters, (917) 435-9329
Statement on Charter Rent Lawsuit Ruling
On December 28, State Supreme Court Judge Paul Feinman confirmed the need for a trial to determine whether or not charter schools co-located in public school buildings should be paying for space and services to the New York City Department of Education (“DOE”).
The case, New York City Parents Union, et al v. The Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York, et al, and Harlem Success Academy Charter School 1, et al, was a request for a preliminary injunction which would have required the agency to immediately collect back rent and payment for services from all charter schools co-located in public school buildings.
While denying the injunction request, Judge Feinman highlighted the fact that the practice of not paying rent existed since 2003 and, inexplicably, had not been challenged. He warned the DOE and the charter schools with the following statement:
… the court’s finding that a preliminary injunction is not warranted at this stage of the proceeding should not be misinterpreted as a finding that the court has evaluated the merits of the parties’ contrasting reading of Education Law ∳2853(4)(3) and favors the BOE’s interpretation. Indeed, in planning its future budgets, neither the BOE nor Intervenor-Defendants should rely on this decision as standing for the proposition that the court accepts their reading of Education Law that if the BOE “gives” the charter school space there is no duty to pay “costs”.
Mona Davids, President of the New York City Parents Union, is pleased with Judge Feinman’s ruling and urges all co-located charter schools to heed this warning and include truthful facility costs in their budgets. “Cases like this are why we exist. We plan to take this issue to trial and win back the hundreds of millions of dollars due to all of the public school children in the City of New York as a result of preferential treatment of the co-located charter schools. Charter schools that co-locate should pay rent since they are receiving the same dollars per child that charter schools with their own space receive, and, worse, co-located charter schools are limiting the space usage options of the public schools where they are co-located.”
Arthur Z. Schwartz, President of the public interest law firm, Advocates for Justice, representing the New York City Parents Union and parent plaintiffs, stated that:
“While we are disappointed that the Judge did not see the loss of $100 million to the school system as irreparable, his decision did no more, in that vein, than acknowledge the DOE’s statement that if it got $100 million it might not spend it on lowering class size. Key to this decision is the Judge’s warning to the DOE and the charter schools that they should take the possibility of co-located charter schools having to pay rent into account when they set up next year’s budget. We look forward to a final decision on the merits before the next school year.”
Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters and a public school parent, said: “It is ironic that Judge Feinman did not order a preliminary injunction because he was not sure that the DOE would spend the additional funds on restoring budget cuts to schools, reducing class size, enhancing instruction or in any way that would benefit our children. But I find the judge’s decision very hopeful; the paragraph quoted above in particular.
“When the case comes to trial, we are optimistic that the judge will look carefully at the law and the facts of the case, and determine that from now on, co-located charter schools must pay their fair share of the costs of taking up valuable space in public school buildings and utilizing the services of city employees, as the law requires. The gears of justice may grind slowly, but they do grind.”
More information about the NYC Parents Union is at http://www.nycparentsunion.org/
More information about Class Size Matters is at www.classsizematters.org
For a fact sheet about the case, see http://tinyurl.com/6vaednn
To download the decision, go to: http://tinyurl.com/8xx8wrd