Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Doe v Peyser (cap lift lawsuit) DISMISSED

You may or may not remember in all of the attention being paid to the ballot campaign, but there has also been a lawsuit pending around lifting the charter cap as well, Doe v. Peyser. Brought by some of Boston's more "prominent" (to quote the Globe) lawyers, it argued that the children suing were not able to get into charter schools they wished to due to the charter cap," an arbitrary impediment to their ability to obtain a quality education."
This afternoon, the case was dismissed in Superior Court. (That's the Scribd link; if Dropbox would work better, I've put it here.) It was dismissed on both the question of the education clause (that's our much-beloved Chapter 5 section 2 of the state constitution, backed up by McDuffy, Hancock, and so forth) and on the question of the equal protection clause (the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution). On the first question, Judge Heidi Brieger writes:
The education clause "obligates the Commonwealth to educate all its children." [McDuffV. 415 Mass. at 617]. This obligation does not mean that Plaintiffs have the constitutional right to choose a particular flavor of education, whether it be a trade school, a sports academy, an arts school, or a charter school. Even if the court were to deny the instant motion, thereby allowing substantial discovery to follow, Plaintiffs' action will always be addressed to the question of whether the Commonwealth is obliged to provide more of one flavor of education than another. This decision - how to allocate public education choices amongst the multitude of possible types - is best left to those elected to make those choices to be carried out by those educated and experienced to do so.

On the second question:
Both Commonwealth and Horace Mann charter schools are funded by the school districts from which they draw students or in which they are located. Consequently, public funding for charter schools necessarily affects the public funding of non-charter schools in the district. Defendants argue, and the court agrees, that the Legislature's charter school cap reflects an effort to allocate education funding between and among all the Commonwealth's students and therefore has a rational basis and cannot violate the equal protection clause.
In both cases, emphasis is mine.

This does raise the question: even if the ballot question were to pass, would be struck down by the courts?

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