Two years ago, five brave families from Western New York made history, fighting for their children and for tens of thousands of children just like them across New York State who are being treated unfairly and unconscionably.
The families filed a lawsuit in Erie County Court – Brown v. New York – that says the state’s funding scheme for charter school kids is inequitable and unconstitutional, depriving the children who attend these schools of the same resources that children in district schools receive. Making this inequity worse is that the children who attend charters are predominantly low-income children and children of color.
Most of the families are from right here in Buffalo. A single mom chose a better school, King Center Charter School, for her daughter so she can become anything she wants to be in life. One grandmother, seeing her grandson beginning to fall through the cracks in his district school, promptly pulled him out and enrolled him at the Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School and now he sees a future at the University of Buffalo.
One family had older children attend district schools years ago and knew what the district could offer – but now that they’re sending three younger kids to public school, they chose a different option, and also enrolled their kids at King Center.
What none of these families knew at the time was that because they chose a different public school for their kids, their children would only receive three-fifths of the funding they would have had they stayed in a district school – failing or not. That’s right – children are being penalized because their parents chose something different, and often better, within the public school system. It’s not only here in Buffalo that kids are shortchanged this way, but in our city the disparity is the worst in the entire state.
It’s completely unfair. And that is why they and other charter supporters will be out again making noise Wednesday as a Rochester court hears arguments in this case. Last May, the parents were victorious in court when a judge denied the state’s motion to dismiss the case. Now the state is appealing that decision, still fighting against the families’ day in court.
What parent, seeing a city school district dismally fail students year after year, wouldn’t look for something better for their child? This is exactly what the families did, and their public school children deserve the same funding for their education that they’d receive in a neighboring district school.
Brown v. New York is about fairness. It’s about equity. It’s about providing all New York’s public school children the chance at a great education. We sincerely hope the judges agree.
This piece originally appeared on the Buffalo News