March 04, 2022

Unions, parents sue SUNY over New York City charter school cap-busting scheme

Source:  NYSUT Media Relations
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NEW YORK March 4, 2022 — The New York state and city teachers unions, joined by parents, have filed a lawsuit against SUNY and its Charter Schools Institute to block the creation of a new charter high school in New York City that would illegally pierce the state cap on new charters in the city.

New York State United Teachers, the United Federation of Teachers and parents allege that SUNY circumvented the clear statutory cap on new charters by authorizing a new Bronx high school, Vertex Partnership Academies, disguised as an expansion of existing charters through a new partnership, Ventoux Partnership Network. That partnership made between Brilla College Preparatory Charter Schools and Public Prep Charter School Academies would funnel students from both networks to the new high school, an agreement designed specifically to evade both the cap and statutory requirements for the creation of new charter schools.

The scheme not only was called out by the State Education Department and Board of Regents in July as clearly violating state law, the lawsuit states that SUNY itself is treating the high school as if it’s a new charter, requiring accountability measures that in SUNY’s own words are “normally reserved for new schools.”

What’s more, Ventoux founder Ian Rowe publicly touts in his biography for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute the creation of “a new network of character-based, International Baccalaureate public charter high schools to open in the Bronx.”

“Put simply, if it looks like a new charter, is held accountable like a new charter, and is structured like a separate and new charter, then it is indeed a new charter and not an expansion,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit can be read in full here:

“The SUNY Trustees and their Charter Schools Institute may think this scheme to create new charter schools is clever, but the law is still the law,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “Those who view the charter cap in New York City as a suggestion instead of a statutory mandate are living in a fantasy land. We look to the courts to give them a reality check.”

“This is a clear end run around the charter cap,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said. “Once again, the charter sector is acting as if the rules don't apply to them. We are here to say: You have to follow the law.”

“City schools already have struggled enough as these charters siphon resources away from our students,” said Ana Rivera, a plaintiff and mother of a Bronx 12th grader. “Enough is enough. We as parents won’t stand for charters that think they exploit the law and take more from our students.”

New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.