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Monday, February 1, 2010

UFT and the NAACP File a Lawsuit To Stop Joel Klein From Closing 19 Schools

February 1, 2010, 5:09 pm
Teachers’ Union and N.A.A.C.P. Sue to Stop School Closings

The city’s teachers’ union and the N.A.A.C.P. filed a lawsuit on Monday to block the closing of 19 schools for poor performance, charging that the city “studiously ignored” provisions of state law as it moved forward in its process to shutter the schools.

The suit charges that the city did not conduct the required analysis of how the closings would affect the more than 13,000 students who attend the schools, particularly special education and other high-needs populations, and that it failed to analyze how the closings would affect the other, often overcrowded schools nearby.

Instead, the suit charges that the Educational Impact Statements for each closed school, which were mandated by the new mayoral control law passed by the Legislature last year, contained boilerplate language and insufficient detail.

For example, for Paul Robeson High School, a closing Brooklyn school with special programs for young mothers and other at-risk youth, the impact statement summarized the “community ramifications” with this vague paragraph:

“Approximately 1,020 high school seats will be eliminated by the phase-out of Paul Robeson High School. However, the majority of those seats will be recovered with the phase-in of new schools throughout the city and available seats in existing high schools.”

Filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the suit also alleges that the city failed to provide appropriate notice of public hearings and made other procedural errors in the run-up to last Tuesday, when the Panel for Educational Policy, a 13-member board controlled by the mayor, voted to close the schools after a raucous, eight-hour long hearing attended by thousands of protesters.

For weeks, city officials have been promoting the message that the teachers’ union is ginning up much of the opposition to the closings, for political reasons and to save jobs. The union is engaged in protracted contract negotiations with City Hall, and faces 2,500 potential layoffs if it doesn’t agree to cut its members’ raises from 4 percent per year to between 1.4 percent and 2 percent.

In the past few days, however, the mayor’s office has expressed particular displeasure with the joining of the lawsuit by the N.A.A.C.P., the 100-year-old civil rights organization.

“Why the N.A.A.C.P joined a lawsuit to keep persistently failing schools open is mind-boggling and incredible,” Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott said on Monday. As for the procedural violations alleged by the suit, Mr. Walcott said, “We feel we’ve met the letter of the law, but that’s going to be discussed in court.”

Hazel N. Dukes, the N.A.A.C.P. state president, objected Monday to how her organization was being portrayed by City Hall.

“We are not puppets for the U.F.T. or elected officials,” she said at a news conference. “We are here because parents have made complaints about their children not receiving their rights in the school system here.”

Also named as plaintiffs in the suit are: Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president; the Alliance for Quality Education, a non-profit organization; four state legislators; five City Council members; and parents and teachers from the closing schools.

United Federation of Teachers sues in effort to block closure of 19 city schools
BY Meredith Kolodner, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER, February 1, 2010

The city's teachers union will file a lawsuit Monday in a bid to block the closure of 19 schools - ramping up its already antagonistic relationship with City Hall.

The United Federation of Teachers lawsuit accuses the city of violating the state mayoral control law by failing to account for the impact of the shutdowns on the community.

Advocates complained last week that the Education Department did not give proper notice about replacement schools before the Panel for Educational Policy voted Wednesday to approve the closures.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was in talks about joining the lawsuit, sources said. NAACP officials refused to comment yesterday.

A UFT lawsuit last year over the proposed closure of three other schools led the city to abandon its plans. None of those schools is on the closure list this year, having all received A's on recent city report cards.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein defended the 19 closures yesterday - and slammed the UFT for feeding the frenzy at the raucous meeting at which they were approved.

"There are a lot of other people stirring this up," Klein said on Channel 7. "A lot of people who spoke at that meeting were union leaders and chapter leaders."

UFT President Michael Mulgrew acknowledged the union provided 50 buses for parents and teachers to travel to the Brooklyn meeting, but he denied that the thousands who attended were pushed by the union. "The fact that teachers and the community were standing together, that's what should be the takeaway for the chancellor," Mulgrew said.

The UFT is in a protracted contract dispute with the city.

Mayor Bloomberg said last week the union would have to accept 2% pay raises up to a maximum of $1,400 - or face 2,500

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