A group of parents in Buffalo and Rochester, New York, has filed a lawsuit against the state, saying that the state’s formula for funding charter schools illegally shortchanges them compared to public schools.
The suit, Brown v. New York, was filed Monday night and announced Tuesday afternoon with the aid of the Northeast Charter Schools Network, an advocacy group for over 200 charters in both New York and Connecticut.
It claims that New York systematically gives charter schools less money than standard public schools. Buffalo charters, for instance, receive only $13,700 per pupil, they claim, while standard district schools receive $23,500. Such a disparity, they say, violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law.
That is especially the case, the charters argue, since students at charters are far more likely to be black, Hispanic, or from low-income households than students in the state at large.
A total of 107,000 children in New York state attend charter schools. However, thousands more remain on wait lists to attend, a wait list that could be shorter if charters had more money to work with, the suit says. By denying charters the money needed to accept more students off of wait lists, the state is condemning students to remain in failing public schools, argue the plaintiffs.
“Charter schools are the only opportunity most inner city children have to an education of excellence,” said plaintiff Maria Dalmau, who has two daughters in a Rochester charter. “Every child deserves an opportunity like the one my daughters have.”
The lawsuit is very similar to one filed in July in Washington, D.C., where the city’s charter schools alleged that the District favors standard public schools by supplying them with free services worth thousands of dollars and unavailable to charter schools.
“For all but the most privileged families, Buffalo and Rochester are educational deserts that starve our most vulnerable children of all meaningful access to the American dream,” says the lawsuit. “Public charter schools offer a glimmer of hope for many families, but the ability of these charter schools to meet this profound need is stymied by an unconstitutional funding scheme.”
The funding situation is exacerbated, the lawsuit claims, by the typical requirement that charter schools supply their own building and pay rent on it, a burden public schools do not have to meet.
The Center for Education Reform, a pro-charter school interest group, was quick to praise the lawsuit in a statement sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“The seven brave charter school student plaintiffs and their parents deserve applause for taking necessary action to secure equitable resources for a ‘sound basic education,’ as their constitutional right is being violated with charter school students receiving a mere three-fifths of funding that district students receive,” the Center said.
Groups that support traditional public schools took a cooler view on the lawsuit, arguing that it merely seeks to divert more money away from revenue-starved district schools.