MANHATTAN (CN) – Parents, the teacher’s union and the NAACP sued the New York City Board of Education for its decision to close 19 public schools, despite the protests of “3,000 mostly angry citizens.” The Board of Education voted on Jan. 26 to close the schools, after a protest rally of thousands and despite testimony from more than 300 people who opposed the closings accused the board of conducting a secretive and deceptive process before the vote.
“This is never easy, and it’s gut-wrenching on the parents whose children attend those schools, along with the staff who work there,” said Peter Murphy, of the New York Charter Schools Association. “The Bloomberg administration and its Department of Education are making a data-driven education decision about each school’s effectiveness. They’ve concluded that years of low-performance on state exams and poor graduation rates, among other issues, demand these schools be closed.
But the plaintiffs contend these justifications were never made apparent. They say schools Chancellor Joel Klein is required by law to issue Educational Impact Statements to assess the impact of school closings on students, communities and nearby schools that must absorb the displaced students.
The activists say that Klein released prepared “boilerplate” statements with “little, if any, variation from school to school” and “embarked on a program seemingly designed to conceal and confuse.”
Most parents and citizens, they say, did not have the technology to get access to these “pro forma” reports, which were accessible on an “initially buried and almost impossible to discover” place on the department’s Web page.
No hard copies were mailed to anyone before the public hearing, nor were they posted at the affected schools or made available to people without computer access or Internet savvy, the complaint states.
They parents that the Board of Education concealed the hearing date in its amended statement and released it only to those who searched its Web site daily.
Klein and other officials ignored “over eight hours of public outcry” and “several calls to postpone the vote,” the activists say.
The activists include Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers; The Alliance for Quality Education; The New York State Conference of the NAACP; Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President; state Senators Eric Adams and Bill Perkins; Assemblymen Hakeem Jeffries and Alan Maisel; City Councilmen Robert Jackson, Charles Barron, Mark Weprin, Lewis Fidler; and several parents and teachers.
They sued the New York City Board of Education and Chancellor Klein, seeking to annul the vote. Their lead counsel is Charles Moerdler with Stroock & Stroock.