The Manhattan Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit brought by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) against two charter schools that joined forces to form Vertex Partnership Academies. The lawsuit, dismissed by Judge Lyle Frank, was meant to block the formation of a Vertex charter school on the basis that charter school cap rules and regulations were allegedly broken. The UFT claimed that two K-8 charter schools could not join forces to start a high school as they would be starting a new school, an assertion the judge refuted. Judge Frank mentioned that the charter schools could expand from kindergarten up to 12th grade without violating the cap.
“It is undisputed that each charter granted under the New York Charter Schools Act permits the education of students from kindergarten through Grade 12,” Frank said in the ruling dated Tuesday, August 16.
“The capacity of students available to these schools under their existing charters remains unchanged… Both sides agree that there is nothing in existing law that would bar charter schools from having an outside entity operate their school,” Frank said.
“Contrary to the petitioners’ [UFT’s] contentions,” he wrote, “it is clear that at issue here is the revision of existing charter schools and not the creation of a new charter school.”
Brilla College Prep and Public Prep are the two charter schools involved in the legal matter. The schools, located respectively in Manhattan and the Bronx, agreed to have a joint venture that would see the formation of a high school. The school would operate as an entity separate from both of the schools. The schools followed the procedure of having their charter licenses revised in 2019. The revision process was successfully approved by the State University of New York’s Board of Trustees which licenses charter schools along with the Regents Board. In the judge’s ruling, he highlighted that the SUNY board of trustees had granted a similar application before when they allowed separate K-8 charter schools to have a joint high school. The SUNY officials who granted the application agreed with the judge’s ruling.
“We are very pleased with the decision in this case – we believed all along that our actions were consistent with the law,” said Joseph Belluck, a trustee who chairs SUNY’s charter school committee.
A spokesperson for the UFT said, “The judge’s decision does not permit the charters involved to `double-dip,’ to get around the charter law by using this ruling to create more high school seats in addition to those involved in the joint high school.”
Besides the UFT’s bid to block Vertex failing, the judge ruled that the teacher’s union did not have the standing to launch a matter disputing charter license revisions. Such matters were the mandate of the Department of Education as they dealt with the perceived harm to the traditional public school system by charter schools.
Vertex Partnerships Academies is located in the Bronx. The burgeoning academic institution was founded by charter school advocate Ian Rowe. The school introduced a new way of learning to the city with the implementation of an international diploma program that was developed in Switzerland. The diploma program is globally recognized and gives students the opportunity to be accepted to study at top domestic and international universities. Charter schools have proved to be popular with parents in the city, with their popularity rising steadily. They offer a great alternative to the traditional public school system and according to reports, there are 140,000 students attending 275 charter schools. Just over 14% of students in the city attend charter schools.