Charter group sues for new school funding formula

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The state has been shortchanging charter schools through a funding formula that delivers only a portion of the resources received by traditional public schools, according to a lawsuit filed against the state Tuesday.

The state Supreme Court lawsuit seeks to have the formula declared unconstitutional and rewritten by the state Legislature to ensure that charter schools can deliver the "sound basic education" that students are guaranteed by the state constitution and previous legal rulings.

"The total number of charter school children being deprived of their rights is staggering," said Harold Hinds, legal director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network, which along with five charter school families, brought the lawsuit on behalf of the state's 107,000 charter school students.

It is at least the second lawsuit filed against the state this year over education funding. In February, a coalition of public school parents and advocacy groups alleged that New York has not complied with terms of an agreement that resolved a 2006 case. The lawsuit, brought by New Yorkers for Students Educational Rights, is pending in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Tuesday's lawsuit said charter school students receive as little as 60 percent of the funding district students receive and also have to pay for their own buildings. Charter school students in Buffalo, for example, receive $13,700 per pupil, while the per-pupil allotment at district schools is $23,500, according to the suit.

The system is discriminatory, the plaintiffs said, because the majority of charter school students are black and Hispanic.

"Charter schools give parents an option and cultivate a culture that enhances children," said plaintiff Russell Bell, whose three children attend King Center Charter School in Buffalo. "There should be justice for these children."

The suit names the state government, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state Assembly, Senate, budget office, Board of Regents and Education Commissioner John King Jr.

A state Education Department spokesman said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit was praised by the Center for Education Reform in Washington, D.C., which called the plaintiffs "brave."

The Alliance for Quality Education, however, criticized the action. The Albany-based public education advocacy group issued a statement saying the lawsuit "will only divert more money away from public schools, at the expense of our children."

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