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Success Academy Brings Pre-K Lawsuit to Save Our Littlest Learners

City’s Top Performing Network of Public Charter Schools Challenges de Blasio Administration’s Bureaucratic Overreach to Preserve Quality of Its Pre-K

New York, NY Undaunted by Mayor de Blasio illegally withholding funding for Pre-K, Success Academy filed suit today in the New York State Supreme Court in the latest effort to provide their littlest learners with a high-quality education. The suit challenges Education Commissioner Elia’s February 26 ruling, which if allowed to stand, would deny current Success Academy parents the right to enroll their 3- and 4-year-olds in one of four Pre-K classes in the city’s top-performing network of public schools.

“I believe in fighting for what kids need. If this lawsuit succeeds, it will provide families with a safe, loving, and stimulating Pre-K for their children,” said Mylisa Brooks, a current Success parent who applied for her son to attend Pre-K at SA Williamsburg. “Success Academy has set a standard for excellence that other public schools would find hard to match.”

State education law specifically does not allow the city to require that charter schools submit to a DOE contract and regulations as a condition of funding. Specifically, the law states:

“[C]harter schools shall be eligible to participate in universal full-day Pre-Kindergarten programs under this section, provided that all such monitoring, programmatic review and operational requirements under [§ 3602-ee] shall be the responsibility of the charter entity.”

“It is so unfortunate that we must sue to defend the rights of 4-year-olds to get a high-quality education, independent of bureaucracy, when the law is so clear about their rights,” said Success Academy founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz.

Excerpt from preliminary statement from request to intervene:

On March 10, 2016, Success Academy Charter Schools – NYC (“Success Academy NYC”), on behalf of Success Academy Charter School (“SA”) Williamsburg, SA Cobble Hill, and SA Harlem 1, and 24 parent petitioners with children currently enrolled in Success Academy NYC Pre-K classes, commenced the above-captioned Article 78 proceeding.  Petitioners appeal from a February 26, 2016 ruling of the Commissioner of the New York State Education Department (the “Commissioner”) that impermissibly allowed the New York City Department of Education (“DOE”) to condition Success Academy NYC’s Pre-K funding on the acceptance of an illegal contract that effectively transferred oversight of Success Academy NYC’s Pre-K classes from its charter authorizer, the State University of New York, to the DOE.  The New York Education Law does not allow the DOE to impose pervasive regulation on charter schools’ Pre-K classes as a condition to receiving Pre-K funding.  See N.Y. Educ. Law § 3602-ee(12); § 2851(3)(b).

The Proposed Intervenors are five parents who seek to enroll their three and four-year-old children in a high-quality public pre-kindergarten (“Pre-K”) of their choice.  Each parent has submitted applications for his or her child to attend Pre-K at SA Williamsburg or SA Cobble Hill, and intends to enroll his or her child at one of these schools for Pre-K instruction if the child is offered a seat and the Pre-K classes are able to open in the fall of 2016.  Whether these Pre-K classes are able to open in the fall of 2016 is dependent on the matter currently pending before this Court.  Success Academy cannot offer Pre-K classes without receiving the funding to which it is entitled under the law. 

Because freedom from bureaucracy and DOE oversight is the fundamental cornerstone to public charter school design, Success Academy NYC cannot sign the DOE’s illegal contract.  Indeed, unshackled from the bureaucracy of DOE oversight, Success Academy NYC schools have achieved unprecedented results, consistently ranking in the top 3% of all public schools in New York state, while serving a principally minority and low-income student population.

Proposed Parent Intervenors each have older children enrolled in a Success Academy NYC school, and those older children are thriving within a rigorous, whole-child-focused educational environment.  Their experience with their older children’s education at a Success Academy school—as well as the dire shortage of high-quality, free Pre-K in New York City—prompted these parents to submit applications for their younger children to attend Success Academy Pre-K.  Because Success Academy applies a sibling preference in its Pre-K admissions lottery, many of these parents have a high likelihood of their children being accepted to a Success Academy Pre-K if Success Academy is able to continue offering Pre-K classes.

However, because the DOE has refused to fund Success Academy NYC’s Pre-K classes during the 2016-2017 school year, Success Academy NYC will not be able to continue its Pre-K classes next year without Pre-K funding.  Proposed Parent Intervenors seek to intervene in the instant proceeding because they stand to lose their high-quality Pre-K of choice should the Commissioner’s incorrect decision allowing DOE oversight over charter Pre-K be permitted to stand.  Many of these parents have no other viable Pre-K options.  Others may have Pre-K options, but those options will not provide the quality of Pre-K education they want for their children.  All parents, including parents without substantial means, should be able to choose a high-quality, free Pre-K education for their children.

For these reasons, Proposed Parent Intervenors respectfully request that the Court permit them to intervene as additional petitioners in the above-captioned proceeding.

Success has been operating Pre-K for seven months without receiving funding. More than 2,500 applicants have applied to Success Academy’s Pre-K next year, and those children and families are hanging in the balance, destined to suffer from the city’s decision. Bureaucracies never like to give up power or yield to the choices of their customers. The de Blasio administration is demanding that Success sign an illegal contract that would entangle its Pre-K classes in the same bureaucratic red tape that charter schools were created — and legally empowered — to avoid.

The DOE contract would unnecessarily and illegally regulate Success Pre-K classes down to the minute, arbitrarily veto rich educational field trips, and entitle the city to replace Success’s custom-designed curriculum with lessons of its choosing — on a whim.

“Paying for a private school would be a financial burden for my family. I would much rather my son attend Success Academy and receive a quality education for free,” said Michelle Jonas, a current Success parent who applied for her son to attend SA Cobble Hill. “I visited many of the Pre-K classrooms in district schools near me, and I felt they were not as structured or focused on academics as Success Academy’s Pre-K.”

Last month, Pierre Delsoin, a Bronx father of two whose daughter is in Success Pre-K, launched a petition to save the program. More than 31,000 people have signed the petition to date.



Founded in 2006, Success Academy Charter Schools are free public Pre-K through 12 schools open to all children in the state through a random lottery. With 34 schools across Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, Success Academy enrolls 11,000 students, primarily low-income children of color in disadvantaged neighborhoods: 75% of students receive free or reduced-price lunch, 95% are children of color, and 12% are children with disabilities. Ranked in the top 1% in math and the top 3% in English on 2015 state proficiency tests, Success Academy schools received more than 22,000 applications for fewer than 2,300 open seats last year. Two Success Academy schools, Success Academy Harlem 1 and Harlem 3, have been honored as National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education, the only Harlem schools in the last 25 years to receive this prestigious award.

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