Your Charter School Legal Team.
With attributes of traditional schools, not-for-profit corporations and innovative start-ups, charter schools face a myriad of legal issues that call for the involvement of lawyers with a combination of legal skills that cross over many areas of the law. Our NYC charter school lawyer’s unique experience and skill set distinguishes our Firm and sets us apart as one of New York’s leading charter school law practices. We are proud to provide counsel to over 100 (and counting) charter schools and related organizations.
Our charter school lawyers 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 & Revisions
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 of charter school attorneys is ready to assist. Need to revise an existing charter? We 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, our charter school lawyers 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 at the federal and state levels and work with examiners to obtain the desired exempt status. Our team of 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 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, enter into a short-term lease, 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 lawyers are ready and able to help.
We have successfully assisted numerous schools with their requests for facility space to the DOE and through the entire appeals process to obtain the rental assistance to which they are entitled under the Charter Schools Act. Let us put our significant experience with this process to work for you!
Education Corporation Mergers
It is often 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 schools and their authorizer(s) to facilitate this process, draft the required legal documents, comply with specific statutory and meeting requirements, amend policies, and provide notices to various stakeholders (e.g. lenders, landlords, vendors) in order to effectuate the merger and ensure a seamless transition to a new corporate legal and governance structure.
Educational Services (Management) Agreements
Our Firm works with charter schools, CMOs and educational service providers to draft various service and management agreements that effectively and efficiently document the parties understanding and 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. Our team of charter school lawyers 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 team of charter school attorneys 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 expires without being renewed or in certain circumstances, terminates 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 the required approvals to dispose of assets and otherwise wind down and dissolve.
Our team of charter school lawyers 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 codes of conduct to employee handbooks to release forms, grievance/complaint policies and more, we 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, we 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 team of charter school lawyers help schools interpret legal requirements and advocate on their behalf in a variety of interactions, meetings and proceedings.
Schools employ anywhere from a few to a few hundred staff members. We 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.
Like any other business or organization, charter schools and charter school-related organizations can experience a variety of legal disputes related to their operations. We 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.
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)? We are here to help.