Charter schools in Queens allowed to monitor their own pre-K without DOE interference: Court of Appeals

Photo: Facebook/Success Academy Charter Schools

The State of New York Court of Appeals sided with Success Academy Charter Schools in a 5-2 decision last week as the academy fought for Universal Pre-K funding from the State Education Department without oversight from the city’s Department of Education.

Success Academy can now receive a part of the city’s $300 million in state funding for Universal Pre-K and have oversight over its own preschools, according to the Court of Appeals’ Nov. 20 decision.

“The issue before us is whether the statutory scheme governing charter school prekindergarten programs allows for shared oversight authority between charter entities and local school districts. We hold that it does not,” according to the Court of Appeals.

CEO James Merriman of the New York City Charter Center, which had filed a joint friend of the court briefing in support of the case, was happy about the result.

“The court found that DOE overreached its statutory authority by requiring charter schools to adhere to a hyper-detailed, one-size-fits-all contract in order to provide UPK programs. Now NYC charter schools committed to providing high-quality UPK will be able to do so without undue interference and yet with proper and appropriate oversight from their authorizers,” Merriman said.

The ruling means that charters still have to meet the legal requirements of the Universal Pre-K statute that ensures the schools are high quality, but their own authorizers will monitor them. The court did find that the DOE had the ability to inspect the program, but this did not mean they had oversight authority.

The ruling sided with charters because a section of a 2014 pre-K law’s language had no provisions in its statute permitting the DOE to oversee the day-to-day curriculum and activities at charters, according to the Court of Appeals.

The city’s Law Department issued a statement saying that it would “review the decision to determine how it will exercise its lawful authority.”

“We believe that all publicly funded pre-K programs serving New York City kids should meet the same high standards. In resolving the tension between conflicting statutes, the Court of Appeals significantly limits, but does not eliminate the Department’s legal authority to ensure that charter schools’ programs meet the educational standards set by law,” the Law Department said.

Currently, Success Academy has charter schools in Far Rockaway, Rosedale, South Jamaica, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans, according to its website.

“The Charter Center has supported this lawsuit since the beginning and is gratified that New York’s highest court has upheld the legislature’s clear intent. This is a win for students,” Merriman said.