February 1, 2010
The city’s teachers union and the NAACP filed suit against the Department of Education today, claiming that the city lost the right to close 19 schools when it violated the law that governs school closures.
Those who have read the law — or the “carefully crafted multi-tiered public process,” as the lawsuit states —can testify that it is not a simple one to follow.
Part of the mayoral control legislation that barely made it through the state legislature last summer calls for the city to hold hearings at each of the public schools slated for closure, for “stakeholders” to be consulted, and for the city to study and report on the effects closing schools would have on their surrounding communities. All of this had to be completed a certain number of days before the citywide schoolboard, the Panel for Educational Policy, voted on the closings.
The United Federation of Teachers is charging the city with putting up only “a pretense of compliance” with those procedures. The department’s Educational Impact Statements were “boilerplate,” Mulgrew said. Their notices of public hearings were published too late and the views of Community Education Councils, which function as local school boards with limited power, were ignored, the lawsuit alleges.
“I don’t know any other way to get the attention of the DOE,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who joined the UFT’s lawsuit. Stringer said he doesn’t oppose closing failing schools on principle, but believes the city has violated the law.
Absent from the news conference at the UFT’s headquarters in Lower Manhattan today was Democratic State Senator Daniel Squadron, who sponsored the law along with Republican State Senator Frank Padavan. In October, Squadron told a small gathering of residents from his district who objected to the law that he felt personally responsible for ensuring that the city followed the protocol it laid out.
DOE officials expected the UFT to sue, but appear particularly irritated by the NAACP’s decision to join as a plaintiff.
“Either you’re for fixing schools that have failed poor and overwhelmingly minority students for far too long, or you’re not. I know what side we’re on,” said Deputy Mayor for Education Dennis Walcott in a statement.
Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include: the Alliance for Quality Education, Marty Markowitz, Bill Perkins, Eric Adams, Martin Dilan, Hakeem Jeffries, Robert Jackson, Charles Barron, Mark Weprin, Al Vann, Daniel Dromm, and Lewis Fidler.
Squadron did not return a request for comment.