Cases & Deals

Charter schools' arguments cited in New York Court of Appeals decision affirming charter school autonomy

Client(s) Achievement First Brooklyn Charter Schools; Brooklyn Charter School; Coney Island Preparatory Public Charter School; Democracy Prep Public Schools; Ember Charter School; New York City Charter School Center; Public Prep Network

Jones Day submitted an amicus curiae brief on behalf of several New York charter schools in a dispute over charter school autonomy. In a 5-2 decision, the New York Court of Appeals affirmed the right of charter schools to develop and implement their curriculum for Pre-K education. The Court of Appeals agreed with the amicus curiae brief that the local school district oversight authority is subordinate to the charter entity’s clear right to autonomy over the “monitoring, programmatic review and operational requirements” for Pre-K programs as prescribed in the New York Charter Schools Act. Jones Day provided amicus support to Success Academy at every level in this litigation.

The action arose from a dispute between Success Academy and the New York City Department of Education (“DOE”). As a precondition for disbursing state funding, the DOE required the execution of a 241-page contract that would have imposed myriad requirements and restrictions on its program and curriculum. Success Academy challenged the DOE’s contract and nonpayment before the Commissioner of the State Education Department (“SED”), which concluded that the operative statute did not constitute an exclusive grant of authority to the charter entity. Success Academy sought review in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, which agreed with the SED Commissioner that the statute “demonstrate[s] clear legislative intent towards joint inclusive oversight of charter school Pre-K providers.” Success Academy appealed that ruling to the Third Department.

The Third Department unanimously reversed, holding that the statute “in no way indicates that another entity – such as a school district – holds concurrent responsibility or authority” over the curriculum and operation of charter Pre-K programs. The court reasoned that autonomy from local school district oversight best comports with “the Legislature’s announced purpose . . . to encourage program creativity through competition.”

The New York Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling, confirming that charter schools’ autonomy is critical to their ability to best educate their students. In adopting the Third Department’s rationale, the Court of Appeals cited to the brief of amici curiae filed by the charter schools, emphasizing that the DOE’s restrictive Pre-K contract placed charter schools “in a no-win situation: accept these contractual terms, or decline them without recourse.”

DeVera, et al. v. Elia, et al., No. 115 (N.Y. App.)