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Success Academy Wins Right to Provide Pre-K Without City’s Overregulation

New York – In an important legal victory for New York’s charter school movement, the State Appellate Division unanimously ruled to overturn the de Blasio administration’s disregard of state law and refusal to provide public funding to Success Academy’s pre-kindergarteners. The City had demanded that Success Academy sign its regulatory contract. Upholding state law that a charter school’s authorizer — in this case, the State University of New York (SUNY) — is responsible for oversight of all programs run by their charter schools, including pre-K, the Court cleared the way for all charters to operate their pre-k programs with the same autonomy they have for grades K-12.

Success Academy spent $720,000 to operate its pre-k program for 2015-16, and the city withheld funding because Success refused to sign the DOE contract that sought to impose regulations upon Success that the City was not authorized to impose. Success entered into what became an 18-month battle, rather than relinquish the freedom to innovate and operate as provided by state law. Success Academy was represented on a pro bono basis by Steve Holley, Jessica Klein, and Andrew Churchill of the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell.

“City Hall’s effort to impose red tape on our schools without authority shows that the de Blasio administration never really embraced the idea that charter schools are supposed to be independent of the district school system,” said Success Academy founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz. “We call upon the administration to confirm that it will now comply with the law.”

Charter school leaders from across the city were united in their support for this legal victory.

"Yesterday's decision to overrule the de Blasio administration's discrimination against public charter schools is a victory for children across New York City,” said Ian Rowe, CEO of Public Prep. “It's heartbreaking that it took this long to let children into great schools."

"This is a massive win for all New York City children, and for all charter schools and families across the city,” said Jacob Mnookin,  founder and executive director of Coney Island Prep.  “We were proud to stand arm in arm with families and our colleagues in the sector to fight for what is right, and the winners today are children citywide who desperately need these seats."

"Across the charter sector we are thrilled by winning this important decision, said Rafiq Kalam Id-Din II, Co-Founder and Managing Partner Ember Charter School. “As the law intended, all charter schools are empowered and encouraged to offer exceptional pre-k seats to children who need them desperately, without ceding the innovation and creativity that already makes our schools great. This is a win for all children and families across New York City."

Although the decision in DeVera v. Elia paves the way for Success Academy and other charter schools to offer pre-k in the future, hundreds of families were deprived of a Success Academy pre-K education for two years due to the de Blasio administration’s refusal to comply with the law.

Decision can be found here.



Founded in 2006, Success Academy Charter Schools are free public K through 12 schools open to all children in the state through a random lottery. With 41 schools across Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, Success Academy enrolls 14,000 students, primarily low-income children of color in disadvantaged neighborhoods: 74% of students receive free or reduced-price lunch, 94% are children of color, 15% are students with disabilities, and 8.3% are current and former English language learners. Ranked in the top 0.3% in math and the top 1.5% in English among all New York State schools on 2016 state proficiency tests, Success Academy schools received more than 17,000 applications for fewer than 3,000 open seats this year. By August, Success Academy will operate 46 schools serving 15,500 children.

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