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Mount Vernon School District Explains Amani Suit

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – The Mount Vernon City School District said Wednesday that the purpose of its lawsuit accusing the state of “fiscal irresponsibility” in connection with the Amani School is to force the state to pony up money the city says it was promised to run the charter school.

The Amani Charter School is a public school with its own administration in Mount Vernon for which students must apply for admission. Though separately run, the City School District is responsible for the school's finances.

Now in its second year, funding has become an issue. City School District Superintendent Judith Johnson said that the major issue is not between the school district and Amani but against the state to make sure something it approved will be funded properly.

The lawsuit, which will cost the district $58,000, charges that the state Department of Education had agreed to fund the school but then went to court in Albany to rescind the funding when it fell short of its budget estimates. The city says it is due $4 million.

“The major issue is that we have to work together instead of fighting,” Johnson said to a group of protesters at a press conference at the district offices on Wednesday. “We all agree that there should be alternatives available but we need to let the state know that they are taking away dollars we need to educate our children.”

Resident Robert Wilson, whose son is a fifth-grader at Amani, said that he sent his child there because of the bureaucracy of the school district. Wilson said that he previously paid for private school because of the test scores he saw coming out of  Mount Vernon schools.

“The other issue is safety,” Wilson said. “Amani offers a safe environment and a superior product.”

Johnson said that there are no plans to close Amani and the district will continue to fight to get the money it feels it deserves.

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