Skip to main content

Search Google Appliance

Search Google Appliance

Decision No. 16,898

Appeal of JOHN W. LAVELLE PREPARATORY CHARTER SCHOOL from action of the New York City Department of Education regarding school utilization.

Decision No. 16,898

(April 12, 2016)

Cohen Schneider & O’Neill LLP, attorneys for petitioner, Susan R. Briggs, Esq., of counsel

Zachary W. Carter, Corporation Counsel, attorney for respondent, Thomas B. Roberts, Esq., of counsel

ELIA, Commissioner.--Petitioner, John W. Lavelle Preparatory Charter School (“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 in part.

Petitioner is a charter school currently located in private space in Community School District (“CSD”) 31 and authorized by the Chancellor of the City School District of the City of New York (“Chancellor”) to serve students in kindergarten through grade 12.

When it first opened for instruction in the 2009-2010 school year, petitioner served students in grade 6.  It added one grade in each school year during the term of its initial charter until the 2013-2014 school year, when it served students in grades 6 through 10.  In March 2014, petitioner’s charter was renewed for a term through and including June 30, 2018.  Petitioner’s charter was also revised in March 2014 to authorize petitioner to expand to serve grades 11 and 12.  Petitioner began serving grade 11 in the 2014-2015 school year and grade 12 in the 2015-2016 school year.[1]  In February 2016, petitioner’s charter was revised again to add kindergarten through grade 5.  In the 2016-2017 school year, petitioner will begin serving students in grades 3 through 5 and in the 2017-2018 school year, it will begin serving students in grade 2.

By letter to DOE dated January 29, 2016, petitioner requested co-location in a public school building pursuant to Education Law §2853(3)(e).  Specifically, petitioner requested space “to accommodate its planned K-5 expansion.”[2] By letter dated February 26, 2016, DOE acknowledged petitioner’s January 29, 2016 request for co-located space, but stated that “[w]e will not be extending an offer space at this time.”  This appeal ensued.

Petitioner asserts that DOE failed to offer it a co-location site in a public school building or space in a privately-owned or other publicly-owned facility, at no cost to petitioner, within the statutorily prescribed five-month period and in violation of its statutory obligation to do so.  It seeks an order directing DOE to comply with it statutory obligation under Education Law §2853(3)(e)(5).

Respondent admits that it has not offered petitioner a co-location site in a public school building, but requests that the appeal be dismissed in its entirety.

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 it any facilities 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.  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 cost to the charter school (Education Law §2853[3][e][1]).

The record indicates that in its February 26, 2016 response to petitioner’s request for space, DOE stated that “[w]e will not be extending an offer of space 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 cost to petitioner.  Instead, DOE stated only that it could not extend an offer of 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 cost 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 petitioner is approved by its charter entity to serve students in kindergarten through grade 12 and that it currently serves students in grades 6 through 12. The record further indicates that in or around January 2016 petitioner’s request to expand to serve students in kindergarten through grade 5 was approved by its charter entity.  In the 2016-2017 school year, petitioner will expand to serve students in grades 3 through 5, and in the 2017-2018 school year, petitioner will expand to serve students in grade 2, expansions for which it requires additional space.  Therefore, on the record before me, I find that petitioner has established that it requires additional space due to an expansion of grade levels commencing in the 2016-2017 school year with its expansion to grades 3 through 5 that was approved by its charter entity.  Petitioner has thus 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 Education Law §2853[3][e]).

Accordingly, having failed to make such an offer, DOE must, pursuant to Education Law §2853(3)(e)(5), pay petitioner in each remaining year of the current charter term, commencing with the 2016-2017 school year, 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 its charter entity, “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 ... 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 2016-2017 school year and for each remaining year of the current charter term, an amount attributable to its expansion that is equal to 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 then-current school year (i.e. the 2016-2017 school year in the first year) and the positive difference of the charter school’s enrollment in the then-current school year (i.e. the 2016-2017 school year in the first year) minus the charter school’s enrollment in the school year prior to the first year of expansion.  As noted above, commencing with the 2016-2017 school year, DOE is obligated to pay for the facilities for the charter school’s grade level expansion in each year of the current charter term.

In this instance, petitioner also has not been afforded the opportunity to 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 respondent from offering petitioner co-location space in the future.

THE APPEAL IS SUSTAINED TO THE EXTENT INDICATED.

IT IS ORDERED that respondent 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 2016-2017 school year and for each remaining year of the 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 then-current school year and the positive difference of the charter school’s enrollment in the then-current school year minus the charter school’s enrollment in the school year prior to the first year of expansion.

END OF FILE

 


[1] Petitioner previously appealed DOE’s failure to offer space in response to its August 4, 2014 request for co-location space for its expansion to grades 11 and 12.  On February 17, 2015, I issued a decision ordering DOE to comply with the requirements of Education Law §2853(3)(e)(5) with respect to such expansion (see Appeal of John W. Lavelle Preparatory Charter School, 54 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,707).

 

[2] In his affidavit, the president of the school indicated that as a result of DOE’s failure to offer space, the school will incur rental costs and expenses.