Although not named as the primary litigant, for all intents and purposes, this lawsuit will herein be referred as the “Newark Charter’s Lawsuit Against The Christina School District”, or “Newark Charter’s Lawsuit” for short….
Those who know,… know why. No further explanation required or will be given.
The lawsuit seeks to do several things.
First, it wants to freeze the $7 million of Christina’s Current Funding it disputes. This is to prevent it being spent before the court can deliver a verdict. Doing so would have a negative effect on Christina’s 22,000 children by depriving their district of funds needed for operation of specific tasks pending the court trial.
Second, it wants those funds to eventually go to charter schools because that was the certification as of September 1st. You may remember that certification was reversed when the public got outraged and …. well, basically after the DOE got caught with their pants down, and really, had no choice, other than change the certifications back to their original levels.
Third, it wants the Christina District to pay all of its legal fees.
Fourth, it wants to add other monetary damages it discovers during the trial, or makes up on its own…
That is basically it. The suit does include the DOE and the state superintendent for overriding the certification originally made which the court must now decide either was a legal correction, or one made outside the law. The lawsuit of course also includes the Christina District and its financial director.
The bone of contention is whether or not, a levy approved by voters in a referendum for one specific item, can be used for any other item later at anyone’s future discretion… The Christina District passed a levy still in effect for four specific things… That money is collected separately and is separately paid to the exact penny for that single group of items. Brandywine District just recently passed a levy to put artificial turf on its field… It was on the ballot specifically for that single item, and was approved by the voters of that district for that single item. Charter schools say they are entitled to part of that payment under per student funding. District schools say that is unconstitutional because the voters did not approve of that money for anything other than that single item… The DOE has always sided with Christina District since 2003, even during extreme pro-charter administrations. .All this attempted lawsuit appears to be,… is an ill-defined attempt to get charters’ fingers on funds they are not entitled to..since those moneys are not part of regular operations of the district, but are allotted instead for a specific function that was “over and beyond” the regular operations of the district. Expect the court to rule it to be unconstitutional to go against voter’s wishes….
As to the holding of the money, most of it is for a specific function… Holding the money would put that function in jeopardy. Switching funding from future use to augment those programs could be accomplished by the district, but it should be unnecessary because the voters themselves said this was their sole reason for voting to be taxed that amount. .. The proper court decision would be to NOT invoke an injunction upon using those funds, because that would be unconstitutionally violating voters’ directives; later, if the court decided to favor those charters making the lawsuit, the district would then pay the amount from different funds and the Charters could still get their money. There is no harm in denying the injunction, and there is harm to innocent parties for honoring it. Expect the court to rule not to allow the injunction.
The principle legal claim by those suing is that equity is not being provided to those students going to charter schools… Their claim is that since Christina is not allowing that specific funding to be split up and follow each Charter student to their school, those students going to Charters get less per student money than do those remaining in public schools and therefore it is not equal… The correct argument against that, is that these moneys are not going to Christina’s students either… Just as the turf money at Brandywine does not go to augment those public schools’ educational expenses, nor should it go to those fleeing to charters… Since none of that funding goes to either public or charter (private) school students, equity is preserved.
The plaintiffs counter argument will be that whereas grass is on the field, these payments are for programs in the classroom and therefore are part of the expense of running a school. The obvious counter to that, is to point out that since Newark Charter has a new school building, that too is an “extra” they can provide their students. That is also an external form of “non-equity” that enables Charter Students to have a better environment than those public school students in Christina’s older buildings. Should some form of equity revert back to Christina for that? Of course not, and neither should it go the other way… Some advantages are endemic to certain entities. and these programs supported by the Christina District’s voters, are a perk these voters of the Christina District insisted on paying for…
Furthermore the Charter Schools are alleging they were harmed by Godowsky’s reversal of their allotment. They were promised one thing, and given another… To some extent this is true. Two operatives (with or without Godowski’s knowledge) changed the allotments by raising them for Charters, then informing the Charters their allotments had been raised, but neglected to tell any of the Public Schools about the changes. The public schools got walloped by the surprise, and had this decision not been properly reversed on September 7th, the public schools most certainly would have sued the DOE on the exact same grounds these Charters now are…. The ineptness of the DOE and its leadership (done either with or against Godowski’s knowledge) may have caused some future funding shortages in some charters… If those claims are real (ie charters hiring additional staff) then the party responsible for repaying the damage should rest solely with the ineptly run DOE, and not with the Christina School District.
Judging by the weakness of the claims, and the huge mental stretches at the complaint’s beginning in trying to establish legal precedents for pushing the suit forward, it appears that the law firm Saul Ewing is simply taking Charters on an expensive ride…