Charter Rent Lawsuit Ruling
January 9, 2012
Around Town – By Neal Tepel
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 vs. 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 courts 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 Intervene -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”.
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.