Skip to main content

Search Google Appliance

Search Google Appliance

Decision No. 16,711

Appeal of BEDFORD STUYVESANT NEW BEGINNINGS CHARTER SCHOOL from action of the New York City Department of Education regarding school utilization.

Decision No. 16,711

(February 19, 2015)

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP, attorneys for petitioner, David W. Brown, Erin J. Morgan and Charles J. Hamilton, Esqs., of counsel

Zachary W. Carter, Corporation Counsel, attorney for respondent, Elizabeth Edmonds, Esq., of counsel

BERLIN, Acting Commissioner.--Petitioner, Bedford Stuyvesant New Beginnings Charter School (“BSNBCS” or “the school”), challenges the New York City Department of Education’s (“DOE” or “respondent”) failure to offer it a co-location site in a public school building or space in a privately owned or publicly owned facility at DOE’s expense and at no cost to petitioner, as required by Education Law §2853(3)(e).  The appeal must be sustained.

Petitioner is a charter school currently located in private space in Community School District (“CSD”) 16.  Its initial charter was issued on January 12, 2010 for a five-year term and was renewed in January 2015 for a term through and including June 30, 2018.[1]

Petitioner was initially authorized to serve students in kindergarten through fifth grade.  In 2013, the school was approved to expand to serve grades six through eight.  It began serving sixth-grade students in the 2013-2014 school year and seventh-grade students in the 2014-2015 school year.

By letter to DOE dated August 5, 2014, petitioner requested co-location in a public school building pursuant to Education Law §2853(3)(e) for its seventh grade in 2014-2015 and eighth grade in 2015-2016.  By letter dated December 22, 2014, DOE acknowledged petitioner’s August 5, 2014 request for co-located space, but stated that “[w]e will not be extending an offer of co-located space in a DOE building in Community School District (CSD) 16 at this time.”  This appeal ensued.

Petitioner asserts that DOE’s failure to offer it any space violated Education Law §2853(e) and was arbitrary and capricious.  It seeks an order directing DOE to comply with Education Law §2853(3)(e)(5).

Respondent admits that it sent petitioner the December 22, 2014 letter, but requests that the appeal be dismissed.[2]

In its reply, petitioner asserts that DOE did not offer any legal arguments or factual assertions contesting its obligations under Education Law §2853(3)(e) and that it did not offer any argument that BSNBCS failed to meet the requirements of Education Law §2853(3)(e).

Preliminarily, I note that this appeal was commenced pursuant to Education Law §2853(3)(e), which was added by Part BB of Chapter 56 of the Laws of 2014. Education Law §2853(3)(e)(3) provides that a charter school in the City School District of the City of New York shall have the option of appealing the “city school district’s offer or failure to offer a co-location site through ... an expedited appeal to the commissioner” pursuant to Education Law §310 and the procedures prescribed in Education Law §2853(3)(a-5).  Pursuant to Education Law §2853(3)(e)(3), in any such appeal, the standard of review shall be the standard prescribed in Civil Practice Law and Rules (“CPLR”) §7803.

In an appeal to the Commissioner, a petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested and the burden of establishing the facts upon which petitioner seeks relief (8 NYCRR §275.10; Appeal of Aversa, 48 Ed Dept Rep 523, Decision No. 15,936; Appeal of Hansen, 48 id. 354, Decision No. 15,884; Appeal of P.M., 48 id. 348, Decision No. 15,882).

Petitioner asserts that DOE failed to offer space in violation of Education Law §2853(3)(e).  Education Law §2853(3)(e) provides that, in the City School District of the City of New York, charter schools that require additional space due to an expansion of grade level approved by their charter entity for the 2014-2015 school year or thereafter, and request co-location in a public school building, shall be provided access to facilities for those grades newly provided.  The statute also requires that, within the later of five months after a charter school’s written request for co-location and 30 days after the charter school’s charter is approved by the charter entity, the city school district shall offer the charter school either a co-location site in a public school building approved by the board of education as provided by law at no cost to the charter school, or space in a privately owned or other publicly owned facility at the expense of the city school district and at no expense to the charter school (Education Law §2853[3][e][1]).

Here, petitioner made a written request for co-location space in a public school building on August 5, 2014.  Specifically, petitioner requested space for its seventh grade in the 2014-2015 school year and eighth grade to be added in the 2015-2016 school year.  The record indicates that in its December 22, 2014 response, DOE stated that “[w]e will not be extending an offer of co-located space in a DOE building in Community School District (CSD) 16 at this time.”  However, in the event that DOE did not offer petitioner a co-location site in a public school building, it was nevertheless required by Education Law §2853(3)(e)(1) to offer petitioner space in a privately owned or other publicly owned facility at the expense of the city school district and at no expense to petitioner.  Instead, DOE indicated in its December 22, 2014 response only that it could not extend an offer of co-located space.  As it did not offer petitioner space in a privately owned or other publicly owned facility at the expense of the city school district and at no expense to petitioner, DOE failed to comply with the requirements of Education Law §2853(3)(e)(1).

The standard of review in an appeal pursuant to Education Law §2853(3)(e) is the standard prescribed in CPLR §7803, which lists questions that may be raised in a proceeding brought pursuant to Article 78.  The question set forth in CPLR §7803(1) is whether the body or officer failed to perform a duty enjoined upon it by law.  The question set forth in CPLR §7803(3) is whether a determination was made in violation of lawful procedure, was affected by an error of law or was arbitrary and capricious or an abuse of discretion, including abuse of discretion as to the measure or mode of penalty or discipline imposed.  Although Education Law §2853(3)(e)(3) does not specify which specific provision of CPLR §7803 applies, I find that under either subdivision (1) or (3), petitioner has carried its burden of establishing the facts and law upon which it seeks relief.

The record in this case indicates that, in 2010, petitioner was approved by its charter entity to serve students in kindergarten through fifth grade.  In 2013, its charter was revised to authorize the school to serve students in sixth through eighth grades.  In the 2014-2015 school year, petitioner expanded to serve students in seventh grade, for which it required additional space.[3]  Therefore, on the record before me, I find that petitioner has established that it requires additional space due to an expansion of grade levels in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years that was approved by its charter entity, albeit in a charter action that occurred prior to the enactment of Education Law §2853(3)(e).  There being no language in the statute limiting its applicability to expansions of grade level approved by a charter entity on or after the effective date of Education Law §2853(3)(e), I find that petitioner has met all the statutory criteria and is entitled either to co-located space or to an offer of private or other publicly owned space (see Appeal of Great Oaks Charter School, 54 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,692).

Accordingly, having failed to make such an offer, DOE must, pursuant to Education Law §2853(3)(e)(5), commencing with the 2014-2015 school year, for the remainder of the initial charter term and in each remaining year of the current charter term, pay petitioner rental assistance based on student enrollment in any newly-added grade level(s) for which petitioner has been approved to provide instruction.  Specifically, with respect to an existing charter school whose expansion of grade level is approved by their charter entity before October 1, 2016, “if the appeal results in a determination in favor of the charter school, the city school district shall pay the charter school an amount attributable to the grade level expansion ... that is equal to the lesser of: (A) the actual rental cost of an alternative privately owned site selected by the charter school or (B) twenty percent of the product of the charter school’s basic tuition for the current school year and ... (ii) for a charter school which expands its grade level, pursuant to this article, before [October 1, 2016], the positive difference of the charter school’s enrollment in the current school year minus the charter school’s enrollment in the school year prior to the first year of the expansion” (Education Law §2853[3][e][5]).

Therefore, pursuant to Education Law §2853(3)(e)(5), DOE must pay petitioner, for newly-added grades commencing with the 2014-2015 school year, for the remainder of the initial charter term and for each remaining year of the current charter term, the lesser of the actual rental cost of an alternative privately-owned site selected by petitioner or 20 percent of the product of the charter school’s basic tuition for the current school year and the positive difference of the charter school’s enrollment in the current school year minus the charter school’s enrollment in the school year prior to the first year of the expansion.  As noted above, commencing with the 2014-2015 school year, DOE is obligated to pay for the facilities for the charter school’s grade level expansion for the remainder of the initial charter term and in each year of the current charter term.

In this instance, petitioner also has not been afforded the opportunity to select an alternative privately owned site, and respondent must afford the charter school an opportunity to do so.  Petitioner must present DOE with evidence of the actual rental cost of an alternative privately owned site so that DOE can determine whether such rental cost is lesser than the amount computed pursuant to Education Law §2853(3)(e)(5)(B).

Nothing herein should be construed to prevent DOE from offering petitioner co-location space in the future.

THE APPEAL IS SUSTAINED.

IT IS ORDERED that DOE comply with the requirements of Education Law §2853(3)(e)(5) in accordance with this decision and pay petitioner, for newly added grades commencing with the 2014-2015 school year, for the remainder of the initial charter term and in each year of the current charter term, an amount attributable to the grade level expansion that is the lesser of the actual rental cost of an alternative privately owned site selected by petitioner or 20 percent of the product of petitioner’s basic tuition for the current school year and the positive difference of the charter school’s enrollment in the current school year minus the charter school’s enrollment in the school year prior to the first year of expansion.

END OF FILE

 

 

[1] Pursuant to §276.6 of the Commissioner’s regulations, I have taken administrative notice of the records pertaining to BSNBCS on file with the State Education Department.

 

 

[2] I note that, although respondent generally denies petitioner’s assertion that the appeal is timely, it does not raise timeless as a defense.  In any event, petitioner commenced this appeal on January 21, 2015, within the time period required by Education Law §2853(3)(e)(2).

 

 

[3] As noted above, the record indicates that petitioner’s charter was renewed in January 2015 for a term through and including June 30, 2018.