Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lisa Donlan on Legal Loopholes in Charter Law

One of the reasons focusing on the legal route - ie. see UFT suit on closing schools - is that there are always loopholes. And when there are not, they often just ignore the law and say "Bite me." And the wus politicians put their tails between their legs and skulk away after making some whimpering noises. My strategy: build organizations capable of backing up legal actions in the streets. (Even that relatively mild walkout at the HSA ameba hearing led by Bill Hargraves has some impact in terms of rallying the troops. But imagine when we can have a thousand people? Remember the Marine Park rally that stopped a charter school invasion last year? (Have to run and no time to find the link - but if you search the blog you will find it - May 2009.)

Here Lisa Donlan in a comment on the video of the walkout points out the loopholes:

I recently posted this recap of the legal issues we ran across (that DoE has run a truck through to quote our top Regent) in the charter re-authorization process. It is a way of expanding charters that escapes the latest laws and attempts at checks/balances, transparency.

I hope folks are disturbed by these legal loopholes that have benefited charters and blocked public discourse about our public schools:

SUNY only holds hearings for initial charter sitings in DoE buildings - expansions get a total exemption from the hearing process and any public scrutiny/feedback.

SUNY hearings in connection with schools’ use of NYCDOE space, only have to be held prior to the first time a charter school occupies a particular public school building.

SUNY outreach is only as good as DoE outreach- and we know how good that is (per Judge Lobis)!

SUNY does not have access to NYCDOE parents and students, backpack or mailed notice is accomplished with the assistance of the NYCDOE.

You have to FOIL renewal applications. The Institute does not at this time post renewal applications online; they are readily available through the Freedom of Information Law.

Whatever the intentions, the language of the law means that only the Chancellor's feedback is legally considered in these hearings.

Comments received from “school district” in the parlance of the Charter Schools Act means the New York City School District as a whole rather than a community school district such as CEC One. Therefore, it is the New York City School Chancellor’s comments that SUNY CSI must legally “consider”

Finally, the charter authorizers rely on the charter and DoE to tell them that there is sufficient space for the co location.

The Institute’s initial recommendation that Girls Prep’s plans for the future, which included expansion in PS188 was based on Girls Prep’s analysis of its space needs as well as the space utilization analysis and related material prepared by NYCDOE, which indicated that the space was under-utilized and that expansion of Girls Prep would not have an adverse impact on either of the other schools in the building.

Lisa Donlan

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