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Charters Don’t Have to Pay Rent, Now

Published: January 3, 2012

Publication: WNYC

By Anna Phillips

A state Supreme Court judge has rejected a request from public school parents and advocacy organizations for a preliminary injunction to require New York City to charge charter schools rent for the space they occupy inside public school buildings.

The ruling, by Justice Paul G. Feinman last Wednesday, said the parents and organizations had failed to prove that the traditional public schools would lose substantive benefits if the city continued to give space rent-free before resolution of a broader lawsuit. Justice Feinman did not take a stand on whether charter schools should have to cover the costs of operating in public space, the question at the center of the suit, which contends in part that the city is owed at least $100 million.

“While $100 million is no small sum, particularly in dire budgetary times, apparently this represents but a small part of the B.O.E.’s budget, and there is no guarantee at all that any part of such sum, if returned to the B.O.E., would manifest itself in more teachers for the public schools plaintiffs represent (or for any public school), as plaintiffs claim,” the justice wrote, referring to the city’s Education Department.

Charging charter schools for rent, which the city is legally allowed to do, would “tip the equities seriously out of balance” if done midyear, the justice wrote, potentially resulting in the closing of numerous charter schools.

Arthur Z. Schwartz, a lawyer for the parents and advocacy organizations, said the case would go to trial.

“The judge didn’t rule on the merits so the claim is going to proceed,” he said.

Charter school advocates counted the ruling as a victory.

“While today’s ruling is only preliminary, we are confident that we will prevail ultimately as well,” said James Merriman, head of the New York City Charter School Center. “It is past time for these pointless attacks on charter schools to come to an end and instead to begin to work together to provide children a great public education in New York City.”

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