Success Academy Goes to State Supreme Court to Save Pre-K for its Littlest Learners
May 5, 2016
Contact: Dan Bank, (212) 681-1380
Oral arguments heard today in case challenging Mayor de Blasio’s illegal action on pre-K
Troy, New York — Success Academy parents traveled all the way to New York State Supreme Court in Troy today as attorneys for the high-performing public charter school network argued that Mayor Bill de Blasio is illegally withholding funding for popular pre-Kindergarten classes. The suit challenges the mayor’s decision to hold the funding hostage unless Success Academy signs a sweeping and onerous contract that violates state education law.
As the attorneys stated, New York’s universal pre-K law specifically provides that a charter school’s authorizer — not a local school district such as the NYC Department of Education — is responsible for oversight of that charter school’s pre-k. Success Academy is overseen by the State University of New York.
The law reads:
“[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.”
“The Legislature could not have been more clear,” argued Steven Holley, an attorney from Sullivan & Cromwell who is serving as pro bono counsel for Success Academy, in court today.
Attorneys for Success Academy also argued that demanding the invasive contract violates the Statewide Universal Pre-K Law’s stated purpose: to "incentivize and fund state-of-the-art innovative pre-Kindergarten programs and to encourage program creativity.”
Success Academy produces exceptional outcomes for students by creatively innovating — outside the boundaries of city bureaucracy. The DOE contract would unnecessarily regulate the network’s pre-K classes down to the minute, arbitrarily veto rich educational field trips, and entitle the city to replace custom-designed lessons on a whim.
“The courts can right the wrong done to these parents by Mayor de Blasio,” said Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz. “The mayor turned a deaf ear to parent petitioners, who want only what is best for their children. Our hope is that the judge will find on behalf of families.”
Susana Tavares is the mother of two boys at Success Academy Harlem 1, one of them in pre-K. Her sons have special needs and are English Language Learners. She made the trip to Troy to take a stand.
“My children shouldn’t be passed around like ping pong balls in a political system,” she said. “I don’t think teachers in some places would have the patience and capacity to teach my child. Success Academy is what my family needs moving forward."
Jesus Hernandez has a four-year-old daughter who attends pre-K at Success Academy Harlem 1.
“Success is very different in so many ways. The way the students really behave and learn, the way they are so polite. I love that for my daughter,” he said. “My daughter has made so much progress, from learning the ABCs to even beginning to read a book, and she became so polite. She says ‘excuse me’ now. I love that.”
Nearly 3,000 children were entered into the random admissions lottery for a Success Academy pre-K seat next year. Those children and their families are hanging in the balance. Without funding, the network will have to shut the doors on its pre-K classes — leaving parents to scramble and forcing many to settle for district-run programs that don’t meet their needs.
“Our family doesn’t have the resources to send our children to an expensive private school. Neither do most other families,” said Jacqueline Banegas-Abreu, whose son is slated to attend pre-K at SA Cobble Hill next school year. “If this lawsuit does not succeed, I’ll probably have to do a lot of work with him at home — over the summer and at night — to ensure he doesn’t already have an educational deficit at the early age of 3.”
The New York City Charter School Center, an advocacy organization, and four other public charter schools have signed an amicus brief in support of the case.
ABOUT SUCCESS ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOLS
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: 74% of students receive free or reduced-price lunch, 95% are children of color, 15% are children with disabilities, and 8.5% are English language learners. 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.