Your Charter School Legal Team
With attributes of traditional schools, not-for-profit corporations, quasi-governmental bodies and innovative start-ups, charter schools face a myriad of unique legal issues that require the involvement of lawyers who possess a complimentary, equally-unique combination of legal skills that cross over a variety of areas of the law. Our unique experience and skill set has distinguished our Firm of charter school lawyers as one of New York’s leading charter school law practice, where we are proud to provide counsel to over 100 (and counting) charter schools and related organizations.
Our charter school attorneys represent charter schools, applicant teams, charter management organizations (CMOs), educational management organizations (EMOs), “Friends Of” organizations, charter school support organizations and educational service providers.
What We Do
Corporate Governance, Real Estate, Tax and Authorizer Relations
Charter Applications & Amendments
Whether you are a founding team applying for your first charter, a boutique network replicating a successful model or a large (or out-of-state) charter management organization increasing your footprint our team is ready to assist. Need to make a change to an existing charter? Our charter school lawyers can help with that, too.
Board Governance & Compliance
For recently-chartered schools, we work with boards of trustees to implement board-level policies and procedures, develop capacity, understand and comply with the variety of laws, rules, regulations and contractual obligations (e.g. Open Meetings Law, General Municipal Law; compliance with the Charter Schools Act and Charter) that apply to charter schools. For existing charter schools, we assist with responses to requests under the Freedom of Information Law, facilitate board meetings, professional development and strategic planning sessions, assist/conduct investigations into grievances and complaints that reach the board, and generally provide counsel to assist a board in its exercise of its duty of oversight. For CMOs, “Friends Of” and other organizations, we provide board-level counsel to assist in the carrying out of their purpose, mission, vision and operations.
Obtaining and Maintaining Tax Exempt (501(c)(3)) Status
As a not-for-profit education corporation, charter schools and certain related entities with a charitable or educational purpose are eligible (and in the case of charter schools, required) to obtain tax-exempt status. We prepare and file applications for tax exemption and the federal and state levels and work with examiners to obtain the desired exempt status. Our charter school lawyers also work with accountants and auditors along the way to make sure that the achieved exempt status remains intact and current.
Real Estate (leases, purchase, development, financing)
A charter school’s facility is one of its most important assets and in New York City, not always so easy to come by. For over 15 years, our legal professionals have worked on real estate transactions both large and small, simple and complex, short-term and long-term. Whether a school or organization needs to license incubation space, develop (or work with a developer) to build (through lease, sublease, acquisition or other arrangement) its 60,000-square foot home for the next 20 years or obtain financing to build or renovate its facility through a variety of financial instruments, our charter school attorneys are ready to help.
As of 2014, to obtain rental assistance from the New York City Department of Education (DOE), charter schools must request facility space from the DOE and if denied or the space offered is not suitable, a charter school must appeal the DOE’s decision, which is most often brought before the Commissioner of the New York State Education Department. Our charter school lawyers assist schools with their requests for facility space to the DOE and throughout the entire appeals process to obtain rental assistance to which they are entitled to under the Charter Schools Act.
Corporate (Education Corporation) Mergers
When two or more boards are each operating one or more school- many times with the same members of their respective boards of trustees, it is desirable to merge education corporations so that one corporation- and therefore one board- can oversee multiple schools and receive the benefit of economies of scale and consolidated leadership structures. Our team of charter school lawyers work with boards and the schools’ authorizer(s) to facilitate the process, draft the required legal documents, comply with specific statutory and meeting requirements, amend policies, provide notice to various stakeholders (e.g. lenders, landlords, vendors) to effectuate the merger and ensure a seamless transition to a new corporate legal and governance structure.
Educational Services (Management) Agreements
Our charter school legal team works with charter schools, CMOs and educational service providers to draft various service and management agreements that effectively and efficiently document the parties understanding, provide for the appropriate level of flexibility while maintaining the required level of accountability at the school and service-provider level.
“Friends Of” Organizations
Charter schools utilize “Friends Of” organizations for a variety of reasons (e.g. fundraising) to support their operations with financial, technical and other assistance. As charter school lawyers, we advise our clients on the formation of “Friends Of” entities and incorporate them, obtain tax exemption, assist with corporate governance and help support their efforts to support schools.
The renewal process does not begin just a few months prior to a charter term ending. We engage with clients early on in their current charter term to review progress towards charter goals, and then work on implementing changes that may be required to help schools achieve their goals. When it comes time to prepare the renewal application, our charter school attornies help by updating policies, procedures, corporate governance models and other legal-related, and communicate with you and your authorizer when needed, too.
Closure & Dissolution
For a variety of reasons- sometimes by choice, other times as a result of an authorizer’s decision- a charter school’s charter expire without being renewed or in certain circumstances, terminate prior to its natural expiration. Our charter school lawyers work with closing schools by assisting them with the disposition of their assets, compliance with closing procedures and the legal requirements, safeguarding of student and staff information and obtaining (as applicable) Attorney General, New York State Education Department, Board of Regents and/or Court approval required to dispose of assets and otherwise wind down and dissolve.
Our charter school legal team routinely guides and advocates for our charter school clients on matters related to interactions with their authorizers, the New York State and New York City Comptrollers, the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights and other governmental/regulatory agencies.
Students, Employees & Operations
School Policies & Procedures
From student code of conduct to employee handbook to release forms, grievance/complaint policies and more, our charter school lawyers draft and advise on the dozens of policies and procedures that schools require to operate effectively, efficiently and in compliance with legal and contractual requirements.
Student Discipline Hearings
When students violate a school’s code of conduct and a suspension or expulsion may be indicated, our charter school attorneys work with schools to ensure their compliance with due process requirements and facilitate discipline hearings, too.
Student & Family Matters
In addition to student discipline, we are routinely called on to advise on student-related matters such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, testing security, child custody/guardianship considerations, special education (see more below), reporting to and proceedings before the Administration for Children and Family Services (ACS), immunization exemption requests and more.
In New York, charter schools are their own local education agencies for all purposes except special education. Nevertheless, charter schools are constantly working with students, their families and the Committee on Special Education (as well as other agencies) on the provision of special education and related services to students. Our charter school attorneys help schools interpret legal requirements and advocate on their behalf in a variety of interactions, meetings, and proceedings.
Schools employee anywhere from a few to a few hundred staff members. Our charter school lawyers support charter schools’ human resources function with documents (e.g. offer letters, contracts, employee handbooks, separation agreements), counsel on matters related to supervision, discipline and termination and investigations when complaints are brought to the attention of school leadership, a CMO and/or the Board.
Dispute Resolution & Litigation
Like any other business or organization, charter schools and charter school-related organizations can experience a variety of legal disputes related to their operations. Our charter school lawyers advise clients when a dispute arises and while we are poised to advocate and negotiate on their behalf to settle matters, we are prepared to see matters through to resolution before various tribunals including mediation, arbitration, the courts and administrative agencies.
General Counsel Services
Need a contract review, have general legal questions or matters that do not squarely fit into one of the categories above and pop up from time to time (or all the time)? Our team of charter school lawyers is here to help.
Looking for other education law services? Visit our Education Law page to see other ways our education attorneys can serve you.