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Decision No. 17,537

Appeal of NEW WORLD PREPARATORY CHARTER SCHOOL from action of the New York City Department of Education regarding school utilization.

Decision No. 17,537

(November 20, 2018)

Hodgson Russ LLP, attorneys for petitioner, Robert J. McLaughlin, Esq., of counsel

Zachary W. Carter, Corporation Counsel, attorney for respondent, Thais R. Ridgeway, Esq., of counsel

ELIA, Commissioner.--Petitioner, New World 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 other 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 authorized by the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York (“SUNY”)[1] to serve students in grades 5 through 8.  Petitioner’s initial charter was issued in February 2010, authorizing it to serve students in grades 6 through 8.  Petitioner’s charter was renewed in 2015.  In June 2018, its charter was renewed, again, for a term up through and including July 31, 2023, and was revised to authorize it to expand to serve students in grades 5 through 8.

Petitioner served students in grades 6 through 8 in Community School District (“CSD”) 31 through the 2017-2018 school year.  It expanded to serve students in grade 5 commencing with the 2018-2019 school year.

On September 18, 2018, petitioner submitted a written request for co-location for its grade 5, pursuant to Education Law §2853(3)(e), using DOE’s online “Portal.”[2]  By letter dated September 21, 2018, DOE acknowledged petitioner’s request for space, but stated that it would “not be extending an offer of 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 the expense of DOE, in violation of Education Law §2853(3)(e).  As relief, it seeks an order directing DOE to pay rental assistance in accordance with Education Law §2853(3)(e)(5).

Respondent admits that it did not offer petitioner a co-location site in a public school building or space in a privately-owned or other publicly-owned facility, and that petitioner is eligible for a finding in its favor.

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 P.C. and K.C., 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,337; Appeal of Aversa, 48 id. 523, Decision No. 15,936; Appeal of Hansen, 48 id. 354, Decision No. 15,884).

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 for its grade 5, at the expense of DOE, 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]).

Here, DOE admits that it responded to petitioner’s co-location request and that it did not offer space to petitioner.  However, in response to petitioner’s request, DOE was required by Education Law §2853(3)(e)(1) to offer petitioner space in a privately-owned or publicly-owned facility at the expense of the city school district and at no cost to petitioner.  As DOE has not offered any facilities at the expense of the city school district and at no cost to petitioner, it 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 indicates that, through the 2017-2018 school year, petitioner served students in grades 6 through 8.  Petitioner’s request to expand to serve students in grade 5 was approved by its charter entity, and petitioner expanded to serve students in grade 5 in the 2018-2019 school year, an expansion 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 level that was approved by its charter entity for the 2014-2015 school year or thereafter.  Petitioner has, thus, met all the statutory criteria and is entitled either to a co-location 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, commencing with the 2018-2019 school year, and in each remaining year of the school’s current charter term and any subsequent renewal term, provided that, in any such renewal term, the charter school serves the grade encompassed by the charter referenced herein, rental assistance based on student enrollment in the newly-added grade 5 for which the school has been approved to provide instruction.[3]  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 calculated in accordance with the formula set forth in Education Law §2853(3)(e)(5).

Therefore, DOE must pay petitioner for its newly-added grade 5, commencing in the 2018-2019 school year, and in each remaining year of the current charter term and any subsequent renewal term, provided that, in any such renewal term, the charter school serves the grade encompassed by the charter referenced herein, an amount attributable to its expansion to grade 5 that is calculated in accordance with the formula set forth in Education Law §2853(3)(e)(5).

In this instance, there is no evidence in the record that petitioner has been afforded the opportunity to select an alternative privately-owned site and respondent must afford petitioner 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 less 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 respondent comply with the requirements of Education Law §2853(3)(e)(5) in accordance with this decision and pay petitioner for its newly-added grade for each remaining year of the current charter term and for any subsequent renewal term, provided that, in any such renewal term, the charter school serves the grade encompassed by the charter referenced herein, an amount attributable to the grade-level expansion that is calculated in accordance with the formula set forth in Education Law §2853(3)(e)(5).

END OF FILE

 

[1] In its petition, petitioner states that its charter entity is respondent’s Chancellor.  However, pursuant to §276.6 of the Commissioner’s regulations, I have taken administrative notice of the records on file with the New York State Education Department (“Department”) which indicate that petitioner’s charter entity was and always has been SUNY.  In this regard, I note petitioner’s reference to SUNY in its memorandum of law.  I also take administrative notice of the records on file with the Department regarding the history of petitioner’s charter, including any renewals or expansions thereof.

 

[2] Request for Charter School Co-location in DOE Facilities, Item 2(11).

 

[3] To be eligible for an apportionment pursuant to Education Law §3602(6-g) where the charter school has prevailed in an appeal to the Commissioner pursuant to Education Law §2853(3)(e), DOE must document all expenses incurred pursuant to Education Law §2853(3)(e)(5) for each such charter school for the term of the charter indicated in the Commissioner’s decision, including any renewals pursuant to Education Law §2851(4), provided that the charter school serves the grades encompassed by the charter that was the subject of the Commissioner’s decision (see New York State Education Department, Update on Facilities Assistance Guidance for NYC Charter Schools, dated November 3, 2016).