Charter school families say state funding formula is unconstitutional

Sep 17, 2014

A lawsuit is claiming the funding formula for charter schools in New York State is unconstitutional.  The suit was filed in State Supreme Court in Erie County.  It claims charter students receive only three-fifths of what school district students receive. 

The suit involves four Buffalo families and one Rochester family whose children attend charter schools. It was filed on behalf of the more than 100,000 charter school students statewide. 

Buffalo families speak out against state's funding formula for charter schools saying it is 'unconstitutional'.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Harold Hinds, legal director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network, appeared at a news conference in downtown Buffalo Tuesday morning where he called the state's charter formula a "funding scheme" that cheats charter school students out of fair funding.

"We have filed a landmark lawsuit against the State of New York," said Hinds. "It seeks to overturn the funding system used by the state for charter schools."

The Northeast Charter Schools Network says the funding formula disproportionately affects students of color and low income children, especially in Buffalo.

"A student in a Buffalo city school receives about $23,524 a year, but a student in a Buffalo charter school receives just three-fifths of that," noted Hinds.

"A student in a Buffalo city school receives about $23,524 a year, but a student in a Buffalo charter school receives just three-fifths of that," noted Hinds.

Charter school parent Russell Bell speaks on behalf of charter school students in Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Families of Buffalo area charter school students spoke at the news conference. Two Buffalo law firms, Herrick and Feinstein and Connors and Vilardo are representing those involved in this suit.

Charter school parent Russell Bell has three children who attend King Charter School. 

Buffalo families speak out against state's funding formula for charter schools saying it is 'unconstitutional'.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

"It should be do justice for these children," said Bell.

If the court were to side with the families, a change in the funding formula would still need to be recreated and approved by the state legislature. 

The funding does not provide enough dollars to support charter school buildings.  Some charter schools are without libraries, gyms and science labs.   

“I really believe that no child should be left behind. That’s how King Center is. They really don’t leave their kids behind. The teachers put so much effort into their students’ education. They go above and beyond. It’s more than a job for these teachers. They have the patience and the dedication that you don’t see every day," stated Denise Stevens. 

Stevens's daughter, Unique Brown, is a seventh grader who attends King Center Charter School.