Chicago Plan derailed in Big Apple... New York Court Throws Out Closing of 19 New York City schools

A New York state court on March 26, 2010, ruled that the closing of 19 New York City public schools voted on by the "PEP", the Panel for Educational Policy (New York City's equivalent of the Chicago Board of Education, both appointed by the city's mayor) last month is illegal under state law. In ruling in favor of a lawsuit brought by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the union representing New York City's teachers (and a large number of other workers), the court held that the closings which the PEP voted for in the face of massive protests were illegal under New York State law.

The response of the city was immediate, disagreeing with the judge's order and insisting that the city's Department of Education have the power to close what they call "failing" schools without paying attention to community input, as The New York Times reported.

News reports on the decision came from the New York Times and New York Post as of Substance deadline.

According to the story published in The New York Times:

March 26, 2010, 1:27 PM, Judge Voids City School Closings, By SHARON OTTERMAN, Updated, 3:16 p.m.

A Manhattan judge on Friday reversed a city decision to close 19 schools for poor performance, ruling that education officials engaged in “significant violations” of state education law and failed to follow proper process in closing the schools.

The ruling means the city will have to start over again in making its case to close the schools — this time including more community input. That lengthy process will delay the moment when thousands of eighth graders who applied to the closing schools learn where they will go in the fall. It represents a victory for the United Federation of Teachers and the N.A.A.C.P., which had filed suit to stop the closings.

The judge, Joan B. Lobis of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, said the decision was not intended to delay admissions notifications for the other 80,000 eighth graders citywide who did not apply to the schools that were affected. High school admissions letters citywide, originally due to be distributed March 24, had been delayed pending the outcome of this lawsuit. The ruling may allow them to go out shortly.

Justice Lobis ruled that the city failed to act in compliance with education law when it issued its Educational Impact Statements for the schools, providing insufficient detail of what the closings would mean to the surrounding communities.

The city, she said, “failed to provide the detailed analysis an impact statement mandates.”

The response from the city was quick — both disagreeing with the judge’s decision, and with the rationale behind it.

“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,” said Michael A. Cardozo, the city’s corporation counsel. “Contrary to the ruling, we believe that the Department of Education complied with the notice and public hearing requirements in the new law. The Court did not take into account the extra efforts made by the Department to supply the relevant facts and to keep all interested parties informed of the process.”

He added: “We also believe that the Court made errors of law when it granted the petitioners the standing to maintain this proceeding, when it weighed the legal standard for compliance with the statute, and in entering its injunction.

“We plan on seeking an immediate appeal.”

The city must reissue the impact statements for the 19 schools before it completes the process of finding seats for the 8,500 students who applied to those schools, Judge Lobis ruled. While the court realizes “this will create inconvenience” for those students, it “cannot overlook what it reluctantly concludes are significant violations of the education law by respondents.”

The Jan. 26 votes by the Panel for Education Policy to close the schools, which followed nearly nine hours of public comment, are “null and void,” she said.

The schools that have received at least a temporary reprieve include Jamaica High School and Beach Channel High School in Queens; Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx; Paul Robeson High School in Brooklyn; and Norman Thomas High School in Manhattan, along with smaller schools, including the Global Enterprise Academy in the Bronx and the high school grades of the Choir Academy of Harlem.

“We are thrilled,” said Christine Rowland, the United Federation of Teachers’ representative at Columbus High School. “I think there’s a chance now. It was so hard for us to get anyone to listen in the very tight space of time we’ve had.”

The Department of Education did not have an initial comment, but a press officer said that lawyers were reviewing the decision.

According to an on line report published by The New York Post on March 26, 2010:

Judge rules Dept. of Ed.'s bid to close 19 schools violated state law, By YOAV GONEN, Last Updated: 1:50 PM, March 26, 2010, Posted: 12:49 PM, March 26, 2010

The teachers union won a lawsuit today in its bid to roll back the city's plan to close 19 low-performing public schools.

The United Federation of Teachers filed the suit in Manhattan Supreme Court last month, accusing the city of ramming its plan through in a way "that would have made Tammany Hall proud."

The union claimed the Department of Education plan violated state law because it failed to consider the impact of the closings on their communities.

As a result, the Department of Education has to either redo the entire student application process or revert to an old list in which kids had picked those schools.

Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein have defended closing schools that they say are failing.

Among the 19 schools that had been slated for closure were six large high schools, including Jamaica and Beach Channel in Queens, Paul Robeson in Brooklyn and Columbus in The Bronx.

The judges ruling also appeared to clear the way for the Department of Education to notify all but the 8,500 students who initially applied to one of the closing schools of their high school placements -- which had been delayed since Wednesday.

A DOE [Department of Education] spokesman said officials were reviewing the decision.


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