New York State Supreme Court Justice Donna M. Siwek last week denied the state’s motion to dismiss a suit filed by charter school parents in Buffalo and Rochester who claim that the state’s failure to provide facilities funding for their schools denies them the opportunity for a sound basic education and the equal protection of the laws. In her decision in Brown v. State of New York, Justice Siwek held that the plaintiffs have standing and although they are entities created by the state, their schools have legal capacity to sue the state.
The complaint alleges that statewide New York State provides charter schools 25% less funding than other public schools and that this disparity is even greater in Western New York. The lack of a reliable source of public funding for the physical infrastructure of charter schools means, according to the plaintiffs, that many charter schools lack facilities that are essential in affording students a sound basic education, “like sufficient classrooms, gymnasiums, libraries, science labs, computer labs, cafeterias, common rooms, employee offices, and athletic fields.”
They also claim that the lack of funding further hinders the ability of charter schools to “invest in new professional development initiatives and curriculum programs, both of which are needed to provide students with a sound basic education in light of the recently enacted Common Core assessment standards. Charters are forced to divert scarce dollars away from preparing students to meet the enhanced rigor of these new assessment standards, and the academic proficiency of charter school students suffers as a result.”
Plaintiffs also claim that the suit denies charter school students equal protection of the laws, especially since the legislature last year enacted a statute that does provide for facilities funding for charter schools in New York City. They also contend that this funding system has a disproportionate impact on minority students.
According to the national school boards association, this is the first case challenging alleged unequal funding for charter schools that has been allowed to proceed to trial; similar claims have been rejected by courts in North Carolina, New Jersey, Arizona and Texas.