News stories

UFT, NAACP sue to stop closings, co-locations

Cara Metz

UFT President Michael Mulgrew, flanked by the co-plantiffs, explains the details of the lawsuit against the Department of Education.

Co-locations being challenged

Manhattan

  • Harlem Success Academy Charter School (to share space with Wadleigh Secondary School and Frederick Douglas II Academy)
  • Harlem Success Academy Charter School 1 (to share space with PS 149 and PS 811, a District 75 school)
  • Success Academy Charter School (to share space with five schools on the Brandeis Educational Campus)
  • KIPP high school grades (to share space with a new middle school, IS 195, and KIPP Infinity Charter School)
  • Girls Preparatory Charter School (to share space with East Side Community School)
  • Promise Academy II and one grade of Promise Academy I (to share space with Choir Academy of Harlem)
  • East Harlem Scholars Academy Charter School (to share space with Central Park East I, Central Park East II and JHS 13)
  • Girls Preparatory Charter School (to share space with PS 188 and PS 94)
  • Harlem Success Academy 5 Charter School (to share space with PS 123)

Brooklyn

  • PS 401 and Leadership Preparatory Ocean Hill Charter School (to share space with PS 332 and the Alternative Learning Center)
  • Teaching Firms of America Charter School (to share space with PS 308)
  • Brooklyn Success Academy Charter School (to share space with Urban Assembly School for Urban Environment and three other schools)
  • Explore Excel Charter School (to share space with PS 114)
  • Invictus Preparatory Charter School (to share space with JHS 218 and the School for Classics)

Bronx

  • Bronx Success Academy 1 (to share space with PS 30)
  • Bronx Success Academy 2 (to share space with PS 146)
  • New Visions Charter HS for the Humanities and New Visions Charter School for
  • Advanced Math and Science (to share space with John F. Kennedy HS and five other schools)

 


Schools that are part of the new UFT closing schools litigation

(Schools in italics were part of last year’s closing schools lawsuit)

  • MS 571
  • Bronx Academy HS
  • IS 195 Roberto Clemente
  • John F. Kennedy HS
  • Pacific HS
  • Performance Conservatory HS
  • PS 102 Joseph O. Loretan
  • Academy for Collaborative Education
  • Academy for Environmental Science
  • Beach Channel HS
  • Christopher Columbus HS
  • Frederick Douglass Academy III (middle school grades)
  • Global Enterprise HS
  • Jamaica HS
  • Kappa II
  • Metropolitan Corporate Academy
  • Monroe Academy for Business and Law
  • New Day Academy
  • Norman Thomas HS
  • Paul Robeson HS
  • PS 332 Charles H. Houston
  • School for Community Research and Learning

For the second time in two years, the UFT and the NAACP have filed suit against the New York City Department of Education to halt threatened school closings. This year’s suit, filed on May 18, also demands that the DOE stop the co-location or expansion of 20 charter schools that would take space and facilities away from other students in the same buildings.

The UFT and the NAACP won in court last year. But “clearly, the DOE has not learned its lesson,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew told reporters at a press conference to announce the new lawsuit. “We cannot continue with policies that allow inequality to not only exist but to flourish in our schools.”

The suit asks the court to prevent the closing of 22 schools, including 15 that were also targeted last year. The DOE walked away from its promise to support the schools — most of which serve highly at-risk students — with additional staff and resources, the suit charges.

Last year, the trial court found that the DOE did not follow the procedures established in state law when it set out to close 19 schools. A five-judge panel of the appellate division unanimously affirmed the lower court ruling. Those rulings, Mulgrew noted, show “that the city’s Department of Education, much as it might want to be, is not above the law.”

This year, the DOE moved to close the schools and in many cases replace them with charters before giving them the educational supports and resources they were promised in writing — and needed to succeed — the suit says.

“We find there has been a rush to judge and condemn schools and not enough effort to provide the quality education that the original case sought,” said Ken Cohen, the regional director of the state conference of the NAACP. At Jamaica HS, Cohen noted, the new schools in the building have smart boards while the students at the school being phased out have “broken blackboards.”

Among the examples cited, Mulgrew pointed out that the DOE had ignored the request by PS 332 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, for more social workers to help its large population of homeless students.

The suit asks the court to bar the co-locations on the grounds that they foster an unequal system where charter-school students get preferential use of the buildings’ common spaces such as gyms, cafeterias and libraries. Those disparities, the suit charges, violate state law mandating equal access to facilities.

“A school building should not be a lesson for a child on what inequality is and that is clearly what we now have. All children should have equal access to facilities inside a school building,” Mulgrew said.

The suit was filed in New York State Supreme Court by the UFT, the NAACP, the Alliance for Quality Education, several state legislators, the Bronx borough president, seven City Council members and five parents of students in the schools.

AQE organizer and parent of four current city students Zakiyah Ansari said she was tired of fighting the same fight over and over and over again. “Closing schools is not a strategy for reforming schools,” she said, citing a recent report by the Urban Youth Collaborative that found that fewer than 10,000 of 33,000 students from schools the mayor has closed ever succeeded in graduating.

Later in the day, Chancellor Dennis Walcott called reporters to Tweed to condemn the suit. He cited Christopher Columbus HS as an example of a failing school that should be closed. But Belinda Brown, a Columbus parent and member of the School Leadership Team at Columbus, told a very different story. Her daughter has excelled at Columbus and will graduate on time this year, she said at the UFT-NAACP press conference. She praised the dedication and innovation of the staff and the principal in accepting all kinds of students and helping them all through high school.

“Chancellor Walcott is understandably outraged because students in our lowest-performing schools don’t have better options,” said Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan. “But the underlying outrage should be not that the UFT has filed suit to keep 20 schools open, rather that the DOE long ago chose to close schools rather than fix them.”

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