The New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) is requiring weekly COVID-19 testing, for a portion of their student and staff present in all reopened school buildings in order to curb the spread of the virus in the City’s public schools. The NYC DOE is conducting these weekly tests in district schools, but has neglected to include charter school students in the testing program. While the vaccine roll out is vital, it will take time and the fact remains that children will still need to be safeguarded. The Charter Center is leading a public campaign to ensure equitable access for the City’s 145,000 charter school students.
Charters Demand Access to Testing
Nearly 300 school leaders, representing 194 public charter schools, sent a letter to NYC Mayor de Blasio calling on the administration to immediately provide charter schools access to the City’s COVID-19 testing and tracing program so that students can safely return to the classroom.
Charters Won the COVID-19 Testing Lawsuit, but the Advocacy Continues...
The Charter Center in concert with five charter schools/networks (Ascend, Classical Charter Schools, Public Prep, Renaissance, and Zeta) prevailed in a lawsuit against New York City to ensure equal access to COVID-19 testing for charter students. Two courts have now found the DOE’s refusal to provide equal testing to charter schools to be without any serious basis in law. However, for now, DOE intends to provide testing only to the schools that were actually plaintiffs in the lawsuit. We believe the courts’ findings make clear all charter schools are eligible to be included in the testing program.
The fight continues to make this right and ensure that all NYC students have access to COVID-19 testing. Schools that want the same testing service that NYC DOE will be providing to district students this fall, please contact DOE via the NYC DOE Charter Office Help Desk.
Charter Schools and Their Families Sue
The Charter Center, along with five NYC charter schools and 10 charter-school families, have sued the de Blasio Administration, asking a court to order the City to include public charter schools in its COVID-19 testing program. The lawsuit asserts that NY law requires the City to provide testing to charter school students on the same terms as traditional public school students. They point to Section 912 of New York’s Education Law, which mandates that every school district must, upon request, provide children who attend non-public schools, including charter schools, “with any or all of the health and welfare services made available…to children attending the [traditional] public schools of the district.”
“A public health crisis is no time to play politics with children’s lives. If the Mayor is serious about returning all public school children to classrooms, then he has to make sure they have access to the very testing his own administration has made mandatory."
James Merriman, CEO, New York City Charter School Center