A judge said that the Secretary of Education must verify or deny charters' invoices.

Court says Holodick must rule on charter school payments 

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

A judge said that the Secretary of Education must verify or deny charters' invoices.

A judge said that the Secretary of Education must verify or deny charters’ invoices.

A Delaware Superior Court judge has ruled that the state secretary of education must verify or deny invoices for special needs services for students sent from charter schools to districts.

The opinion said there was not enough information for him to order the state to pay the $4 million for which the Delaware Charter Schools Network and 11 charters sued Education Secretary Mark Holodick.

Ultimately, the March 23 ruling means that Holodick must rule on invoices sent more than a year, either clearing them for payment out of district property school tax revenue or telling the charters why they won’t be paid.

“The Court agrees that Section 509(f) unambiguously entitles charter schools to submit bills for tuition charges in order to fund any services that are ‘appropriately financed’ pursuant to Chapter 6, and specifically, Section 604,” said the opinion by Judge Noel Eason Primos.

Section 509(f) says that a charter school student’s district of residence is required to pay for special services that a child requires.

It means that if a student who lives in Christina School District attends a charter school in Wilmington, the Wilmington school could bill Christina for the services.

Holodick and Department of Education officials declined to comment.

Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, was happy with the court’s ruling.

“Our charter schools are  pleased that the court found they have an unambiguous right to access tuition tax dollars, and are pursuing their students’ rightful share of those dollars,” she said.

Submitted bills don’t guarantee that charters get paid, however. Holodick has authority to reject them with justifiable cause. 

“The secretary must act – either verify the bills as submitted or tell the charter schools why not,” Masset said.

MORE ABOUT THE CASE: Charter Schools sue Holodick over special ed payments

The lawsuit stems from invoices, or bills, the 11 charters submitted to Holodick.

The charters claim that Holodick failed to perform his legal duty to verify and certify their invoices and so they were not paid.

State code requires the secretary to verify the invoices within 20 days of receiving them.

The suit claims Academia Antonia Alonso, Aspira Academy, East Side Charter, First State Montessori Academy, Gateway Charter, Great Oaks Charter, Kuumba Academy Charter, MOT Charter, Newark Charter, Odyssey Charter and Sussex Academy submitted $4 million in bills to Holodick in late 2021.

They have not been paid, the suit said.

Primos ruled that it is indeed the secretary of education’s job – in this case, Holodick’s job – to verify the invoices as “true and correct” or deny them, but that he must take action.

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