The Wall Street Journal
Charter School Clears Hurdle
By Lisa Fleisher
An embattled charter elementary school proposed by former City Council member Eva Moskowitz has cleared another legal hurdle to open on the Upper West side.
A state Supreme Court judge in Manhattan ruled Friday that a challenge by parents to Upper West Success should be decided by the state education commissioner first, instead of the court. Then, parents can turn to the court to appeal if necessary.
The new charter, the latest in a string of charter schools from Ms. Moskowitz, is slated this fall to become the sixth school within the Brandeis High School campus, which used to house one massive high school but was split up into smaller high schools. Ms. Moskowitz's Success Charter Network schools—which as charters are publicly funded, privately run and aren't unionized—have often faced opposition. Meanwhile, the network has promoted its students' high test scores as proof that the methods and long, intensive instructional hours work.
The decision makes it clear that the state Education Department has first dibs on decisions involving whether to house schools within the same building—a controversial policy known as co-location.
Ms. Moskowitz, in a statement, hailed Justice Paul Feinman's decision as "a victory for parents."
"The families of more than 190 children now know that their kids will be going to the school of their choice this year," she said. "We are excited to roll up our sleeves at Upper West Success Academy and show that charter schools can help all children thrive, no matter what neighborhood the school is located or where the students are from."
The lead plaintiff, Lisa Steglich, declined to comment specifically on the ruling. Ms. Steglich, whose son will be a sophomore at one of the charter's new neighbors, Frank McCourt High School, said, "There is a desperate need for high-school seats in District 3, and it makes no sense to give high-school seats to elementary-school kids." She is also the school's PTA president.
Now, the parents could go to the state education commissioner—although the city or the charter network could argue it's too late for that—or they could appeal the judge's decision to a higher court.
"We will review the decision with our clients and consider all available options," said attorney Marc Landis, who is with the Phillips Nizer firm and is representing the parents pro bono.
"Upper West Success Academy will be an excellent educational option for students and families, and we are pleased that the court has removed the uncertainty about its opening by dismissing this case," said Michael Best, counsel for the Department of Education.
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