Four New York charter schools and networks filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education Monday, alleging nearly $1 million in grants were “removed” from their classrooms.
The promised funds were “unfairly swept away” by eight charter schools in the state due to the “bureaucratic error,” according to a press release about the federal lawsuit.
“These funds were guaranteed funds that were promised to our schools and our children,” said Emily Kim, founder and CEO of Zeta Charter Schools, who is among those suing the DOE. “They were budgeted.”
“These lost funds are hurting our programs and we need to be able to recover them so that we can continue to provide children with a great education,” Kim said at a rally in the Bronx on Monday.
The DOE gave New York a $113 million grant a decade ago to help newly authorized charter schools get started or add grades or increase enrollment to high-performing charter schools.
The state was in the process of distributing those funds until the fall of 2019, when schools claimed federal agencies returned the money, citing a grant expiration.
The reasons for the state’s delayed payout were not immediately clear, although Kim said such delays were “common”.
The New York State Department of Education, which the press release said had requested an extension of the grants, requested a waiver of the payouts with a newer charter school budget — but was turned down last summer.
“By denying NYSED’s waiver request, the department has effectively deprived the school’s plaintiffs of their lawfully awarded grants,” the lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, reads.
Among the materials filed with the complaint is a letter from the state, citing a “mutual misunderstanding” about the length of time the original funds were to be drawn down, “no doubt exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis and the increased workload that has resulted.”
Kim added that the state “expected that [the extension] was assured. They hadn’t heard anything in months and it was swept back.”
“There’s no good reason for them to deny it,” she added.
Other schools affected include Buffalo Collegiate Charter School, Valence College Prep Charter School in Queens, Emblaze Academy Charter School in the Bronx, Neighborhood Charter School in the Bronx, Persistence Prep Academy Charter School in Buffalo, and Cardinal McCloskey Community Charter school in the Bronx.
The vast majority of students at the schools — from 97 to 99 percent — are children of color, according to the press release. Many also come from low-income backgrounds, 65 to 100 percent of the schools’ student population.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is rolling out new rules for the federal grant program that could prevent for-profit-controlled startups from receiving the entry fee and lock in use of some funds until later in the school-opening process.
The rules could also prioritize charter schools that work with local school districts and require a “community impact analysis” of the potential school, including how it will meet demand and promote diversity.
“The federal government’s rejection comes in the context of proposed rules that would drastically limit access to CSP funding,” said Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres (NY-15), representing the South Bronx.
“The intent of these rules is to sabotage charter schools. And I reject the charter school discrimination agenda,” he added.
The US Department of Education did not respond to an immediate request for comment.
https://nypost.com/2022/06/06/ny-charter-networks-sue-u-s-doe-over-promised-funds/ New York charter networks are suing US DOE over ‘promised’ funds