In New York City, charter schools are private nonprofit education corporations that partner with the New York State Education Department or State University of New York to provide educational services.

The New York City Parents Union (NYCPU), Class Size Matters and public school parents filed a lawsuit this week against the New York City Department of Education (DOE). The NYCPU believes the DOE has created a “separate and unequal” education system through the co-location of charter schools in public school buildings.

The NYPU challenges the provision of free space and services to charter schools. They say that it increases class size in public schools and undermines the constitutional right of children to a sound and adequate education. The NYPU opposes the co-location process as a “meaningful public process.”

“The New York charter school law clearly states that if a district chooses to provide space and services to charter schools, it must do so at cost. Yet the DOE provides this to charters for $1 per year,” stated Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, a citywide parent advocacy group and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “Using figures from the Independent Budget Office, we estimate that the space and services DOE provides to charters next year are worth nearly $96 million.

“These are funds that our public schools desperately need and could be used to prevent devastating budget cuts, the loss of teachers and sharply increased class sizes next year,” she added.

The plaintiffs on the suit include charter school parents, in an effort to force DOE to pay attention to the impact of its actions on the rights of public school students.

“We believe all children must have equal access to a quality public education,” said Mona Davids, president of the New York Charter Parents Association. “We respect the choice a few families made in removing their children from the public education system and enrolling them in publicly funded but privately managed charter schools.”

Muba Yarofulani, a parent plaintiff in the lawsuit, stated, “Our public school children continue to be served in an educational system where quality and equal opportunity are not the norm. We will continue to fight to the end for equal access to a quality education for our public school children.”