March 26, 2010
A school board vote to close 19 city schools is “null and void,” according to a decision handed down by a state Supreme Court justice today.
The bombshell decision leaves the fate of all 19 schools and their staffs up in the air and could force the Department of Education to rewrite arguments for why they deserve to be shut down. The ruling is the first time a court has interpreted the new mayoral control law Albany put in place last summer.
A lawyer for the city, Michael Cardozo, said the Department of Education would appeal the decision.
“We are disappointed by today’s ruling, which, unless it is reversed, requires the Department of Education to keep open schools that are failing our children,” Cardozo said.
In February, the teachers union sued the city, arguing that the DOE had violated the law that governs school closures.
The city received the decision at 12:30 this afternoon, two days after the deadline for high school students to be told which schools they’ll attend in the fall. In her ruling, Judge Joan Lobis wrote that her decision should not affect the 80,000 students who did not apply to the closing schools.
She acknowledged that the decision would be an “inconvenience for respondents and hardships for students who are awaiting the results of the school matching process.” In total, there are 8,500 students who applied to the closing schools.
But she wrote, “the court cannot overlook what it reluctantly concludes are significant violations of the Education Law by respondents.”
DOE officials said students who didn’t apply to the 19 closing schools would get their high school matches “as soon as possible.”
If the court’s decision is upheld, Department of Education officials could be looking at another month of bruising public hearings at each of the schools slated for closure. In another possible scenario, the department could decide that it’s too late in the year to redo the process and decide to postpone the closures until next year.
In a statement sent to reporters, Cardozo disputed the judge’s ruling that the city had not followed public notification and hearing regulations, but did not argue with the claim that the city’s impact statements lacked necessary information.
A spokesman for the DOE said department lawyers are reviewing the decision and did not have an initial comment.
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