Join the GOOGLE +Rubber Room Community

Monday, April 5, 2010

UFT And NAACP Sue The NYC BOE For Voting To Close 19 Schools, And Win

The UFT and NAACP sued the NYC BOE for closing 19 schools without adequate community input, and New York State Supreme Court Judge Lobis agreed. Then, Joel Klein disregarded the decision and sent out the acceptance letters to NYC's 8th graders as if there was no decision, without including the 19 schools he ordered closed.

Another example of how lawless the NYC BOE is right now, and how Joel Klein believes that he is above the Law.

On April 2, 2010, the New York Times published an editorial that is surprisingly correct:

April 2, 2010
New York Times Editorial
This Time, Listen

The New York State Legislature made a much-needed change when it reauthorized the law that gave Mayor Michael Bloomberg direct control of New York City schools. It required him to confer more closely with parents, community groups and other stakeholders before closing schools. We have long been concerned about Mr. Bloomberg’s commitment to that process — and a recent ruling by the State Supreme Court made us worry more.

The court said the city has violated the new law and continues to “trivialize the whole notion of community involvement in decisions regarding the closing or phasing out of schools.”

The ruling, which has blocked the closing of 19 schools cited for poor performance, requires the city to start the process again. This time, it must give the affected communities a meaningful opportunity to comment.

Before closing or phasing out a school, the schools chancellor must prepare a detailed impact statement that describes, among other things, changes in how the building would be used, the effects on the surrounding community and the ability of other schools in the area to absorb new students.

The impact statement is to be filed with several entities, including local community boards, community superintendents and school-based management teams at least six months before the start of the new school year. Soon afterward, the chancellor is supposed to hold public hearings where groups specified in the law can raise concerns that might alter the closure plan.

The judge ruled that the city failed to comply with these provisions, depriving parents of important information and the right to comment meaningfully on the closure plan. Unless this decision is overturned, the 19 schools are to remain open until the city reissues the impact statements and complies with other aspects of the law.

Beyond that, the city needs to make sure that the rules under which it decides to close some schools are fair, transparent and understandable to everyone who has a stake in the process.

Instead of dismissing the lawsuit as an act of sabotage by the teachers’ union, which was party to it, city officials should be building bridges to the parents, community leaders and the angry state lawmakers who joined this suit out of frustration with the city’s tactics.

Judge Blocks Controversial School Closings
By Jaisal Noor
The Indypendent, April 2, 2010

On March 26, New York State Supreme Court Judge Joan B. Lobis reversed a controversial decision to shut down 19 New York City public schools. The ruling, in response to a lawsuit jointly filed by the United Federation of Teachers and the NAACP, came two months to the day after Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s handpicked schoolboard approved the closures.

In the sharply worded ruling, Lobis wrote that the Panel for Education Policy carried out “significant violations of the Education Law” by ignoring outspoken opposition to the school closings. Further, Lobis wrote, the Department of Education (DOE) “appeared to trivialize the whole notion of community involvement in decisions regarding the closing or phasing out of schools.”

This decision is the first of its kind since the state legislature renewed Bloomberg’s control of the city’s public school system last summer. The ruling mandates that the DOE submit Educational Impact Statements and hold public hearings before closing or colocating schools.

David Bloomfield, a Brooklyn College professor of education, law and policy, commented on that the ruling “will be difficult to overturn on appeal,” because “the decision is squarely based on facts admitted by both parties and established law about Environmental Impact Statements.”

However, there are still concerns about the extent to which Judge Lobis’ decision will actually loosen Bloomberg’s grasp on public schools.

Seung Ok, a teacher at Maxwell High School in East New York, Brooklyn, one of the 19 schools slated for closure, said he is cautiously optimistic about the decision.

“This gives us a chance to mobilize further and get the word out that the DOE does break laws, but it does not try to support the schools,” Ok said, who is also an organizer with the Grassroots Education Movement, a citywide network of teachers and parents that has protested the closings.

According to Leonie Haimson, executive director of the educational advocacy group Class Size Matters, while the ruling does require the DOE to conduct more through Educational Impact Statements, once it receives Panel for Education approval on a decision, there is nothing to stop the DOE from closing more schools — or opening new ones.

“A more independent Panel for Educational Policy and making DOE subject to city law are important checks and balances that should have been incorporated into the law. In the end, if they clean up the public process, it will slow them down, but they will likely get to the same end,” Haimson said.

The DOE still plans to open 15 new, smaller schools in the buildings of the schools that were slated to begin to be phased out this fall.

Closing large public schools and opening smaller, often privately run charter schools, has been a centerpiece of Bloomberg’s educational agenda, with the DOE closing 91 schools since he was granted direct control of the city’s school system in 2002.

The closings, which would affect 13,000 students, primarily targeted schools in people-of-color neighborhoods.

NEW YORK, March 26 (UPI) -- New York City's effort to close 19 schools for poor performance has been halted by a judge who said education officials violated state law in closing them.

State Supreme Court Judge Joan B. Lobis cited "significant violations" of state education law and ruled school officials ignored proper process in closing the institutions, The New York Times reported Friday.

The ruling came in a suit filed by the United Federation of Teachers and the NAACP to stop the closings, the Times said.

Lobis ruled the city, in its required Educational Impact Statements, offered insufficient detail on how closings would affect surrounding communities.

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

Impact statements for the affected facilities must be reissued, Lobis ruled, before the city can continue its plans to find alternate schools for the 8,500 students at the 19 campuses, the newspaper said.

Admitting it would "create inconvenience" for those students, the judge said the court "cannot overlook what it reluctantly concludes are significant violations of the education law by respondents."

Notice of Petition and Petition

Decision and Order

DOE Is Told School Closings Were Done Improperly
March 29, 2010 by Ahmed

A 9-4 vote by the Panel of Education Policy taken on January 26th to close 19 poorly performing schools was overturned this past Friday in a Manhattan courtroom.

State Supreme Court Judge Joan B. Lobis cited multiple violations made by the New York City of Department of Education specifically their failure “to provide the detailed analysis an impact statement mandates.” Judge Lobis was referring to an Educational Impact Statement, a document required by law that assesses how changes of this magnitude will affect the surrounding community. After reviewing the evidence, the judge believed the DOE failed to adequately explain to parents and local advocates how extensive the effect of these closings would be in their respective neighborhoods.

While City officials scramble to prepare a speedy appeal and opponents celebrate this victory, 8,500 students remain in limbo as to what school they’ll be attending next fall – though the DOE has already said that they have begun to send out acceptance letters for the other 80,000 students beginning this past weekend. GothamSchools has put together a great analysis on their website asking what’s next for the students and details about a possible backup plan available to Chancellor Klein in case this appeal process drags out.

Here are statements from both sides made after the ruling:

Michael A. Cardozo, City’s Corporation counsel:

“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…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.”

Michael Mulgrew, UFT President :

“That’s what the community was saying throughout this process, they continuously said they’re not doing this right,” saidAnd no one was listening and no one would stop them from what they were doing, and it’s sad that we had to go to court to get relief.”

CHAIRGATE: New York State Wants To Buy New Furniture With Race To The Top Funds

An executive seat that may be similar to the chairs coveted by New York State officials

This story, revealed by NY POST reporter Yoav Gonan (see below), is almost too outrageous to be true. Yet the immense stupidity of New York State officials who applied for the TttT grant money with a request for new furniture validates everything that the bloggers have written for years: New York State is the top of the line in terms of corruption (and, I might add, sheer arrogance). Our New York State education officials - with a helping hand of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senator John Sampson - slipped into the New York State application for federal Race To The Top an appropriation of $200,000 for desks and chairs for their offices. Were they thinking that perhaps the public would never find out?

I called NYSED up the day that the application was reported as finished, and asked for a copy. I was told that there would be no copies released to the public.

No wonder.

Betsy Combier

This $550 exec seat cost kids millions
By YOAV GONEN Education Reporter, NY POST, March 31, 2010

The state failed to get a penny in education funds doled out by Washington this week after clueless bureaucrats were dopey enough to admit to the feds they would have blown more than $200,000 on expensive furniture for their offices.

They apparently thought designer chairs, desks and bookcases for themselves were more important than training teachers or turning around failing schools.

The bizarre equipment wish list was so outrageous that three of the five judges who reviewed New York's "Race to the Top" application blasted it in written comments -- focusing on 24 "executive chairs" that cost $550 each, or more than $13,000 total.

State officials also sought 15 regular desks at $3,000 each, nine L-shaped desks at $1,800 a pop and 15 printers that each cost more than $1,500. "There are projected expenses (e.g. $550 for executive chairs) that call into question NY's judgment on responsible stewardship of funds," wrote one reviewer.

Another judge wrote, "These inclusions compromise the state's narrative as a careful steward of public funds."

The officials also wanted four computer stations at $2,500 each and two bookcases -- at a steep $3,000 each -- they said would go into new offices they'd create to support the educational initiatives.

New York's submission for reforming its education agenda -- produced by the state Education Department and the governor's office -- placed 15th out of 16 finalists in the national competition for $4.4 billion.

Losing states will get a second crack at the leftover funds later this spring.

Senator John Sampson on the right, with New York State Comptroller Tom Napoli (at left), Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch

State education officials said they were hampered by Albany's purchasing rules, which forced them to order supplies from a vendor named CorCraft -- whose goods are made by New York prison inmates.

"It's not a state Education Department decision -- it's a state procurement issue," said Deputy Commissioner John King Jr. "We are mandated to purchase from CorCraft,"

But the state did not have to use a federal grant for office furniture or equipment. It could have spent the money on things like more social workers or longer class hours.

"It reminds you of rearranging executive chairs on the Titanic. The problem isn't with the chairs -- it's that our ship has hit an iceberg," said Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. "The application had a lot of problems -- and the chairs are the least of it."

According to the reviewers' comments, New York's application was also hindered by a lack of union support, the looming charter-schools cap of 200, and a data system that has barely gotten off the ground.

NYSED Revised version of the application for RTTT funds