charter school facilities

Co-Location Cooperation

the new space wars

cold call

gearing up

the new space wars

budget breakdown

reaching out

New York

Judge dismisses suit to make co-located charter schools to pay rent

A judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking $100 million in rent from charter schools that have for years occupied space for free in public school buildings. The lawsuit, filed by parents and advocates nearly two years ago, claimed that the city Department of Education was in violation of state education law by giving city-owned space to privately managed charter schools at no charge. The parents estimated that the annual free ride cost more than $96 million, a total they sought to steer toward hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes after years of budget cuts. New York State Supreme Court Judge Barbara Jaffe didn't rule on the fundamental issue of whether charter schools should pay rent. Instead, she ruled that it is not the court's role to settle disputes over state education law. She said that must first go through the State Education Department, a  precedent that was established in the UFT's 2010 suit against rising class sizes. But even as Jaffe ruled against the parent groups, she wrote that the concerns they raised were legitimate. The charter sector has thrived under the Bloomberg administration, which has awarded free space to more than 60 percent of 159 charter schools. The schools are often placed alongside existing schools in a controversial arrangement known as "co-location." Critics have said that the policy introduces stark inequities and breeds unnecessary tension, issues that Jaffe suggested were valid. "There is no dispute that charter schools, through public funding and private donations, have access to more financial resources than those available to traditional public schools," Jaffe wrote. Those resources, she continued, are used for improvements for charter schools that are "within the full view of traditional public school students."
New York

Holiday feast in Flatbush unifies a district and charter school

In some shared school buildings, district and charter schools struggle over scarce resources. In Flatbush, they are sharing their bounty. Fahari Academy Charter School and M.S. 246, Walt Whitman Middle School, held a potluck holiday dinner Wednesday in their shared gymnasium. The event, billed as a showcase for the schools' working relationship, comes as the year's fights over new co-locations start to heat up. Fahari and Walt Whitman staff enjoying the food choices at a joint holiday potluck. The walls were spruced up with red drapes, silver tinsel, and strings of lights, and long tables decorated with poinsettias and silver candelabras were set in a semi-circle to encourage mingling between the schools. A deejay kept a holiday playlist going as attendees selected from dozens of buffet options, heaping their plates with jerk chicken, baked ziti, and curried goat. Catina Venning, Fahari’s executive director, and Bently Warrington, Walt Whitman’s principal, said they hope that the respectful relationship they have worked to establish will trickle down to staff and students. While this is the first shared holiday party, the schools have worked together on other initiatives, including a community cleanup last June. The event was planned by a committee made up of two representatives from each school. The vision was a winter wonderland and the responsibilities were split between the schools: Walt Whitman took on most of the cooking and Fahari focused on the decorations. Fahari opened in the M.S. 246 building in 2009. During the co-location's first two years, as Fahari expanded from fifth to sixth grade, the schools experienced some kinks as the two leaders adjusted to each other’s styles and established protocols for divvying up common facilities. Fahari also experienced difficulties of its own, including a D on the city's progress report and concerns about school culture that led to a successful unionization effort by its teachers. “In the beginning, it was difficult, I’m not going to lie,” Venning said.
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