Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times is reporting that Success Academy has suffered a defeat in a high-profile skirmish with New York City yesterday, when the state education commissioner ruled that the city could require the charter school network to sign a contract to receive funding for its prekindergarten program. As reported:
“Success Academy has been running a program in three schools as part of the city’s universal prekindergarten system. But it refused to sign the city’s contract for prekindergarten providers, arguing that it gave the Education Department improper oversight over its operations.
The city said that the contract was necessary to ensure a consistent level of quality and noted that the 13 other charter school organizations with prekindergarten had signed it. Because of the dispute, Success has not been paid by the city for its program, which has 72 students. It is seeking roughly $720,000 from the city.
The network and a group of parents appealed to the State Education Department in October to settle the matter.
Last month, Success’s founder, Eva S. Moskowitz, wrote to the commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, saying that if the department did not make a decision by Feb. 15, “we will have no choice but to cancel our pre-K classes for next year.” That deadline came and went, and Ms. Moskowitz extended the deadline until March 1.
On Friday, she said that the network would appeal Ms. Elia’s decision in state court.
“The law is clear,” she said in a statement. “We have a very strong legal case.”
But in her decision, Ms. Elia noted that the city’s request for proposals to run prekindergarten programs clearly stated “no payments will be made by the D.O.E. until the contract is registered with the N.Y.C. comptroller’s office.”
She also ruled that there was nothing contrary to state education law in the city’s oversight of the program.
Taking Success’s argument “to its logical conclusion,” Ms. Elia wrote, “would mean that D.O.E. would be required to provide charter schools’ prekindergarten programs with public funding without any mechanism to ensure” that they were meeting quality requirements, and that “public funds are being spent in accordance with the requirements.”
This is an important decision considering that Commissioner Elia has been a strong supporter of charter schools.