12-07-2016  12:19 pm      •     

NEW YORK (NNPA) - New York City's Department of Education (DOE) had better be prepared for a fight.
In the aftermath of the department approving the eventual closing of 19 schools around the city, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), along with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Alliance for Quality Education and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer filed a joint lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court. The lawsuit asks the court to overturn the Panel for Education Policy's (PEP) decision to close the schools.
Some of the schools that are threatened by the PEP's vote include Paul Robeson High School in Crown Heights, Jamaica High School, PS 332 in Brownsville, Metropolitan Corporate Academy in Downtown Brooklyn, Monroe Academy for Business Law in the Bronx and Norman Thomas High School in Manhattan. UFT President Michael Mulgrew feels confident about the lawsuit.
"The reason behind the lawsuit was that they didn't follow the school governance law," said Mulgrew. "We worked very hard to redo the mayoral control school governance law. They did not follow the procedure. The community is outraged about certain things, but we work hard to make sure the community is respected in all matters. All you're going to do by not engaging them is to enrage them."
Charges laid out in the lawsuit include accusations of the DOE violating New York State law by not properly analyzing how 13,000 students will be affected by the closings. The suit also claims that the DOE didn't consider how the closings will impact special-needs students, how other schools will become overcrowded in its wake and the refusal to give parents and the local community a proper say in the matter.
"We have 15 branches within the five boroughs, so on behalf of those branches in our communities, we had to get involved," said Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York Conference. "Jamaica, East Elmhurst, Staten Island, Parkchester: They all have compiled complaints." According to Dukes, the DOE has a history of not following rules and orders. Even if by law.
Dukes said that the NAACP has met with the DOE many times over the past four years and referenced a recent lawsuit demanding smaller class sizes. Dukes said they won the suit, but nothing has changed in the schools. "We still have 30 to 40 children in classes," said Dukes. She also expressed disgust at the thought that the DOE might have used student attendance as a measurement for closing schools.
"In Far Rockaway, we have an influx of homeless children in shelters [attending schools in the area]," said Dukes. "And you know some night you can be in shelter B and the next night you're in shelter C, which is not in the same community. While the parents and the children try to weed through the bureaucracy, the school isn't helping and just counting them absent."
While Borough President Stringer isn't sure that attendance was taken into account by the PEP, it's only because he's not sure if any criteria exists for the school closings. "I was hoping this day would not come," said Stringer in a phone interview with the AmNews. "I asked the PEP to delay closing the schools until we learned what the criteria were for closing the schools, and we have not gotten this. My representative on the PEP had to vote no because we couldn't have an open process." But despite the open process, or lack thereof, those who carry the torch for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and School Chancellor Joel Klein are backing the PEP's decision.
Dennis M. Walcott, the deputy mayor for education and community development in New York City, wrote an op-ed in the New York Post advocating the school closings, claiming it's a civil rights issue. "Continuing to send students to failing schools, especially when we know how poor the odds are that they will succeed in those schools, and when we have evidence that we can do better, represents a fundamental violation of the civil rights of our children of color and their families," he wrote. Walcott believes that the UFT, NAACP and others are "failing to protect the interests of our African-American and Latino children."
But where will those children go? What about class size? How will classes affect the way the city's children learn? Every question has popped in the mind of Dukes and she hasn't, based on recent experiences, come up with an answer that's pretty.
"In Parkchester, we had children attending class in a trailer for over five years," said Dukes. "The parents came to the [local NAACP] branch and demonstrated. They said it was healthy and unsafe because the environment caused kids to be out of school because of asthma attacks. There was mold in there. We just got them out of the trailer last week.
"We've been patient. We've tried to reason," continued Dukes. "To me, they are hell-bent on knowing everything that is good for the children. That's disrespectful to the parents, to the community and to our children."
The Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) sent out a release last week with links to a video the organization produced featuring scenes from several school closure hearings. The videos were shot at four different hearings and at the Martin Luther King Day Educational Justice Rally at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, which was put together by the Coalition for Educational Justice. In the videos, parents, education advocates and others voiced their concerns regarding the closings. "The PEP should stop ignoring parents and refuse to rubber-stamp these school closings," said Shana Marks-Odinga and organizer for AQE. "There is $4 million in federal funds that could be used to turnaround eight of these schools, but the DOE has offered no plan to turn any of them around."
This is where all of the organizations in the lawsuit seem to agree. They need transparency from the DOE—the type of transparency that alerts the public as to why the schools their children attend will be no more.
"Rather than close [schools] immediately, what's the plan about making it better?" wondered Stringer. "Don't private businesses hire crisis managers? I think the question is not for me to tell you what the criteria are [for a school]. We need to hear it from the DOE."
"It's very odd behavior," added Mulgrew. "I don't understand why they don't understand that people are going to get angry if they don't feel included. There's a real disconnect between the DOE and the community, and it's become so abundantly clear."
n the aftermath of the department approving the eventual closing of 19 schools around the city, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), along with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Alliance for Quality Education and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer filed a joint lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court. The lawsuit asks the court to overturn the Panel for Education Policy's (PEP) decision to close the schools.
Some of the schools that are threatened by the PEP's vote include Paul Robeson High School in Crown Heights, Jamaica High School, PS 332 in Brownsville, Metropolitan Corporate Academy in Downtown Brooklyn, Monroe Academy for Business Law in the Bronx and Norman Thomas High School in Manhattan. UFT President Michael Mulgrew feels confident about the lawsuit.
"The reason behind the lawsuit was that they didn't follow the school governance law," said Mulgrew. "We worked very hard to redo the mayoral control school governance law. They did not follow the procedure. The community is outraged about certain things, but we work hard to make sure the community is respected in all matters. All you're going to do by not engaging them is to enrage them."
Charges laid out in the lawsuit include accusations of the DOE violating New York State law by not properly analyzing how 13,000 students will be affected by the closings. The suit also claims that the DOE didn't consider how the closings will impact special-needs students, how other schools will become overcrowded in its wake and the refusal to give parents and the local community a proper say in the matter.
"We have 15 branches within the five boroughs, so on behalf of those branches in our communities, we had to get involved," said Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York Conference. "Jamaica, East Elmhurst, Staten Island, Parkchester: They all have compiled complaints." According to Dukes, the DOE has a history of not following rules and orders. Even if by law.
Dukes said that the NAACP has met with the DOE many times over the past four years and referenced a recent lawsuit demanding smaller class sizes. Dukes said they won the suit, but nothing has changed in the schools. "We still have 30 to 40 children in classes," said Dukes. She also expressed disgust at the thought that the DOE might have used student attendance as a measurement for closing schools.
"In Far Rockaway, we have an influx of homeless children in shelters [attending schools in the area]," said Dukes. "And you know some night you can be in shelter B and the next night you're in shelter C, which is not in the same community. While the parents and the children try to weed through the bureaucracy, the school isn't helping and just counting them absent."
While Borough President Stringer isn't sure that attendance was taken into account by the PEP, it's only because he's not sure if any criteria exists for the school closings. "I was hoping this day would not come," said Stringer in a phone interview with the AmNews. "I asked the PEP to delay closing the schools until we learned what the criteria were for closing the schools, and we have not gotten this. My representative on the PEP had to vote no because we couldn't have an open process." But despite the open process, or lack thereof, those who carry the torch for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and School Chancellor Joel Klein are backing the PEP's decision.
Dennis M. Walcott, the deputy mayor for education and community development in New York City, wrote an op-ed in the New York Post advocating the school closings, claiming it's a civil rights issue. "Continuing to send students to failing schools, especially when we know how poor the odds are that they will succeed in those schools, and when we have evidence that we can do better, represents a fundamental violation of the civil rights of our children of color and their families," he wrote. Walcott believes that the UFT, NAACP and others are "failing to protect the interests of our African-American and Latino children."
But where will those children go? What about class size? How will classes affect the way the city's children learn? Every question has popped in the mind of Dukes and she hasn't, based on recent experiences, come up with an answer that's pretty.
"In Parkchester, we had children attending class in a trailer for over five years," said Dukes. "The parents came to the [local NAACP] branch and demonstrated. They said it was healthy and unsafe because the environment caused kids to be out of school because of asthma attacks. There was mold in there. We just got them out of the trailer last week.
"We've been patient. We've tried to reason," continued Dukes. "To me, they are hell-bent on knowing everything that is good for the children. That's disrespectful to the parents, to the community and to our children."
The Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) sent out a release last week with links to a video the organization produced featuring scenes from several school closure hearings. The videos were shot at four different hearings and at the Martin Luther King Day Educational Justice Rally at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, which was put together by the Coalition for Educational Justice. In the videos, parents, education advocates and others voiced their concerns regarding the closings. "The PEP should stop ignoring parents and refuse to rubber-stamp these school closings," said Shana Marks-Odinga and organizer for AQE. "There is $4 million in federal funds that could be used to turnaround eight of these schools, but the DOE has offered no plan to turn any of them around."
This is where all of the organizations in the lawsuit seem to agree. They need transparency from the DOE—the type of transparency that alerts the public as to why the schools their children attend will be no more.
"Rather than close [schools] immediately, what's the plan about making it better?" wondered Stringer. "Don't private businesses hire crisis managers? I think the question is not for me to tell you what the criteria are [for a school]. We need to hear it from the DOE."
"It's very odd behavior," added Mulgrew. "I don't understand why they don't understand that people are going to get angry if they don't feel included. There's a real disconnect between the DOE and the community, and it's become so abundantly clear."

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