UFT seeks to block future co-locations

Blasting the mayor for “trying to tie the hands of the next administration,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew on July 18 announced a union lawsuit to stop the Bloomberg administration from locking in more than a dozen school co-locations that would start after the mayor’s term in office ends.

“The mayor is trying to control beyond the time that he is mayor, and we’re not going to let that happen,” Mulgrew said as he stood on the steps of City Hall surrounded by parents, teachers, politicians and community activists. Bloomberg doesn’t get a fourth term, he said.

The union’s lawsuit against the Department of Education aims to stop new or expanded co-locations in 13 school buildings. But Mulgrew said that the mayor is planning “dozens and dozens” more co-locations before he leaves office on Dec. 31.

The Panel for Educational Policy, which votes on all co-location decisions, has already approved several co-locations, grade truncations and new schools for the 2014-15 school year, more than a full school year after the panel’s vote. In addition, a few charter school sites approved by the panel would not take effect until 2015.

Charter school co-locations account for nearly all of the co-locations named in the lawsuit, and they are typically the most controversial type of co-locations. Nearly two-thirds of the city’s charter schools — 62 percent — are co-located with district schools, according to a report by the New York City Charter School Center.

Vanessa Ramos is a pre-K teacher and the UFT chapter leader at Manhattan’s PS 38, one of the schools named in the lawsuit. The school is currently co-located with the Dream Charter School but that school will be moving out of the building into its own space and will be replaced in September 2014 by a Harlem Prep charter school that Ramos fears will want to expand.

“We’ve already been inconvenienced,” Ramos said. “It’s already affected our music program, our lunch periods, the times the students can use the gym and auditorium.”

She’s also angry that the school community had no input in the decision about how to use the space being vacated, which she said PS 38 could make good use of.

“It limits our programs and our possibilities to expand as a school because the space is already promised to someone else,” she said of the co-location. “It’s just another way of the mayor limiting what public schools can do.”

Parents are also upset with the mayor’s plans.

Parent Erica Lane said that Harlem Success’ co-location with Brooklyn’s School for International Studies has made the district school’s students feel out of place in their own building.

The district school’s “side of the building looks antiquated while the other side of the building, where they’re not allowed, is updated,” Lane said.

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