Remember the post about the celebration that staff of the NY Department of Education had last Friday on the closing of public schools and the opening of franchise charter schools?

There is now a lawsuit that was filed on Monday by Leonie Haimson, founding member of Parents Across America and Executive Director of Class Size Matters, along with 24 other parents requiring that charter schools start to pay for the space that they reside in on public school property. Charter schools typically move into existing public school buildings and pay a nominal rent, if any, and do not pay the transportation cost for their students.

Below is an excerpt from the New York Times article, Another Legal Challenge to the City’s Charter Schools:

Department of Education officials went out for drinks on Friday to celebrate the city’s preliminary victory in a lawsuit that sought to block 15 charter schools from sharing space in traditional public school buildings.

But it is a new week, and now there is a new lawsuit. A group of 25 public school parents filed papers (see also below) in State Supreme Court on Monday demanding that charter schools, which are publicly financed but independently run, be required to pay for the space they use in public schools.

About two-thirds of the approximately 125 charter schools in New York City are in public school buildings. The city generally provides the space for a nominal fee, such as a token $1 a year, the lawsuit says.

But the city spends about $2,700 per student to provide charter schools with the space, according to a report from the city’s Independent Budget Office that is quoted in the lawsuit. That includes subsidies for classroom supplies, transportation, food and security and about $1,350 per student to pay down the debt the city incurs when building schools.

With all those freebies, charter school students in public school buildings got about $650 more per student in public money and in-kind services in 2010 than traditional public school students, according to the Independent Budget Office. (Their report from the prior year found that charters in public school buildings got $300 less per student.)

The lawsuit, brought by Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, and other parents, including more than a dozen from Public School 197 in Manhattan, charges that the city is breaking state law by providing those services for free.

The suit quotes a clause in state law that says that when districts provide charter schools with space, “any such contract shall provide such services or facilities at cost.” As such, it asks for repayment by the charters, as well as a fairer process for dividing district school and charter school space.

Public spending on charter schools is a hotly contested topic, particularly in a time of budget cuts. Charter schools are not subject to the same budget cuts and staff losses as most of the city’s public schools, so many have been hiring this summer, even as regular Department of Education schools are losing 2,600 teaching positions to attrition.

For the full article, go to the New York Times City Room.

Another article of interest regarding the lawsuit can be found at Gotham Schools, Following one legal victory, city faces new battle on co-locations.

Dora