February 8, 2012
Backed by a law firm that has battled the Department of Education in court repeatedly over the past year, a group of Cobble Hill parents announced today that they are suing to stop Eva Moskowitz’s Brooklyn Success Academy 3 from moving into their neighborhood.
Fifteen public school parents signed onto the suit, which Advocates for Justice said it would be filing today.
The suit claims the city and Moskowitz circumvented state education laws when they abruptly changed plans for the school late last year. BSA 3 was originally approved for either District 13 or District 14, but the city revised its proposal in late October and announced the school would instead share a building with two high schools and a special needs elementary school in District 15.
Opposition to the plan quickly mounted and reached a climax when protesters clashed with Moskowitz at a meeting she hosted for prospective parents in November. The city’s Panel for Educational Policy approved the co-location plan two weeks later.
It’s the second time in as many years that a Success school has been the subject of a lawsuit from the surrounding community. Last April, parents on the Upper West Side filed suit against the city’s plan to site a Success school on the Brandeis campus, charging that the network was not serving the needy student population that was written into its charter. The suit was dismissed just weeks before the school was slated to open.
Advocates for Justice was not involved in that suit, but it has been an active litigant against the DOE over the last year. The group sued over the botched parent leader election proceedings last spring and a case over collecting costs from co-located charter schools is still making its way through the courts.
The latest lawsuit seeks to challenge the legality of the co-location plan based on at least two provisions in the state’s 2010 charter law. The lawsuit alleges that Moskowitz failed to revise her charter application when the city changed its plans to site the school in a new district. The SUNY Charter School Institute, Success’ authorizer, has written that Moskowitz did not need to revise her charter because the school was not moved outside of borough of Brooklyn, and since New York City was considered one district, state regulations didn’t require a revision.
The suit also claims that Moskowitz’s original application met a requirement for community input in districts 13 and 14 but not in District 15, where the school is set to open.
“If they had followed the rules and bothered to ask parents and the community in our building and in District 15 for input, this co-location would not be happening next year,” said Colleen Mingo, a parent leader at the School for International Studies, one of the schools in the Baltic Street building where BSA 3 is slated to open.
In a statement, Success spokeswoman Jenny Sedlis said more parents had already submitted applications for the Cobble Hill school than it would be able to accommodate. She dismissed the lawsuit and press conference — which was organized by Alliance for Quality Education, a union-back advocacy group – as being about the “politics of education.”
“It’s unfortunate that a few adults intent on protecting the status quo would sue to sacrifice the possibility of a brighter education and future for hundreds of children, and we will fight this lawsuit vigorously to ensure that doesn’t happen,” Sedlis said.