Pro Bono Victory for Success Academy Charter Schools – NYC

November 20, 2018

The New York Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of S&C's pro bono client Success Academy Charter Schools – NYC in its battle to provide prekindergarten (Pre-K) classes free from intrusive oversight by the New York City Department of Education (DOE).
 
Success Academy is New York City's largest network of charter schools, operating 47 schools with approximately 17,000 students. Success Academy schools consistently rank in the top 3 percent of New York City public schools in terms of student performance.

In 2014, New York enacted legislation designed to make Pre-K classes universally available. While the statute authorized local school districts like the DOE to establish quality-assurance standards for other types of Pre-K providers such as not-for-profit organizations or libraries, it preserved the traditional autonomy of charter schools, providing that “all such monitoring, programmatic review and operational requirements…shall be the responsibility of the charter entity.” Notwithstanding this express carve-out for charter schools, the DOE refused to fund Pre-K classes offered by Success Academy unless it agreed to a lengthy contract that would have given the DOE control over virtually all aspects of Success Academy's Pre-K classes, including curriculum, field trips, meals, daily schedule, and staff qualifications and training. Success Academy declined to sign, and instead challenged the legality of the DOE's contract. After the Appellate Division, Third Department ruled unanimously for Success Academy, the DOE appealed to the Court of Appeals in Albany.  
 
In affirming the Appellate Division's decision, the Court of Appeals adopted all of Success Academy's principal arguments. By confirming that Pre-K classes offered by charter schools are not subject to comprehensive regulation by local school districts, the decision has implications not only for Success Academy, but for all charter schools across New York.

The S&C team representing Success Academy was led by Steve Holley, who argued the appeal, and Jessica Klein.