Photo: The Hunts Point Express. Parents and school personnel rally in front of Zeta Charter School Bronx 1 in Port Morris on June 6, to draw attention to their law suit against the federal government.

Charter schools to federal DOE: Where’s our money?

Two South Bronx charter schools are among eight statewide—six in the city and two in Buffalo— that are fighting the US Department of Education to recover nearly $1 million they say the federal government took away from them unjustly.

Rep. Ritchie Torres joined parents, teachers and administrators from four charter school networks for a rally in front of Zeta Charter School Bronx 1 on Alexander Ave. on Monday, to bring attention to a lawsuit the schools and parents have brought in federal court in Manhattan, arguing that the US Department of Education “wrongly stripped” them of federal funds they had successfully bid for years ago.

The two South Bronx schools impacted by the funding loss: Emblaze Academy Charter School in Hunts Point and Neighborhood Charter School in Mott Haven. The Zeta network’s two affected schools are in Tremont and Upper Manhattan.

The founder and CEO of Zeta Charter Schools, Emily Kim, said that the schools have responded to the lost funds by “sounding the alarm,” for months, trying to contact the federal DOE, which has “refused to listen.”

Zeta schools “incurred incredible expenses to make our schools safe,” as the first elementary schools in the city to “reopen our doors to in-person learning,” during the pandemic, Kim said, “because our children and our families needed us to do so.” The neighborhoods and families served by the schools filing the lawsuit, she said, are “among the least resourced in the nation.”

Rep. Torres said that the US DOE “has chosen to sabotage” the schools “in their moment of greatest need.”

“Some students are homeless, some have special needs. All of these students are disadvantaged students.”

The New York State DOE was in the process of distributing the federal funds in 2019, when the federal DOE unexpectedly ended the flow of money due to a misunderstanding over an administrative detail, according to the lawsuit. The money was initially made available in 2011 as part of a pool of funds for newly-created charter schools to get started, and for established charters to grow.

The DOE has not responded to requests for comment.

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