New York Charter School Legal Compliance Alert

By: Paul T. O’Neill, Jaime A. Fernand and Lisa J. Holtzmuller

New York Paid Family Leave Act

Beginning on January 1, 2018, all private employers (which is being interpreted by the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board to include charter schools) will be required to provide paid family leave to their employees working in New York.  While most disability benefit providers are automatically adding paid family leave to employers’ disability policies effective January 1, 2018, there are other steps that you must take in order to comply with the new law, including providing certain notifications to employees and updating your personnel handbook.  In addition, certain classes of employees at your organization may be exempt from automatic coverage.  Finally, because disability benefits and paid family leave benefits cannot be taken at the same time and paid family leave can be taken on an intermittent basis, you should start planning ahead from a scheduling and financial perspective, as some employees could be eligible for 16 weeks or more of leave in 2018.

Minimum Wage Increase

In addition to the laws regarding paid family leave going into effect, employers should remember that the minimum wage for employees will be increased again as of January 1, 2018.  Similar to the increase that took place at the end of the last calendar year, the minimum wage increase varies depending on your geographical areas of operation and how many people are employed at your organization.

Alternative Certification for SUNY-Authorized Charter Schools

Last month, the SUNY Board of Trustees’ Charter School Committee (SUNY CSI) adopted regulations providing an alternative teacher certification pathway to its charter schools in response to the difficulties that many schools have experienced with respect to hiring teachers certified in accordance with the requirements of Commissioner of Education. In order to take advantage of this new alternative teacher certification pathway, a charter school, among other things, must be authorized by SUNY CSI and have a demonstrated record of academic success, which under the new regulation is measured by the education corporation’s test scores and renewal history.

Changes to NYC Special Education Billing Practices

The New York City Department of Education has made an important change to the special education charges it will accept from charter schools.  As the LEA for all charter schools in NYC, and the financial pass-through entity for funds from the state, the NYC DOE has control over the special education processes applicable to charters and the related funding charters receive.

Ordinarily, charter schools implement student IEPs and bill the district for the cost of providing services directly to students. If a student requires an instructional setting and/or services that are beyond what the charter school can provide, that student is usually removed by the NYC DOE from the charter school to a school that can fully implement the IEP. Sometimes, however, such as where a parent refuses an alternative setting, the CSE calls for the charter school to do its best to meet student needs.

Until recently, the NYC DOE reluctantly allowed charter schools to bill for the costs of providing such services – those that are not on the IEP but intended to essentially serve as a viable substitute. For example, where an IEP calls for a 12:1:1 instructional setting that a charter school cannot provide, the school would offer ICT services instead, and bill the district for those. Now, the NYC DOE has stopped allowing charter schools to bill for services not explicitly called for on an IEP despite these unusual circumstances. The district has been uniformly rejecting such invoices.  The NYC DOE has, however, recently been willing to compromise and pay these costs as it has in the past if the school engages with the relevant CSE in working to find a longer-term solution. We are helping numerous schools in navigating this process and are happy to assist as needed.

 If you have any questions about these issues or how these changes will affect your organization, please don’t hesitate to contact any of the below members of Barton Gilman’s New York education practice. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Paul O’Neill at poneill@bglaw.com or 212.792.6246

Jaime Fernand at jfernand@bglaw.com or 212.792.6246

Lisa Holtzmuller at lholtzmuller@bglaw.com or 617.654.8200