Parents, a teacher, and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) today filed a lawsuit in Manhattan State Supreme Court charging that the New York City Department of Education violated state education law and its own regulations when it sought to co-locate two Success Academy charter schools into Queens and Brooklyn public schools without providing an in-depth analysis of how these co-locations would affect the students already in those public schools.
The city’s Panel for Education Policy voted in November and December in favor of the co-locations, but as the lawsuit says, “The DOE has misled parents, the public, and the PEP itself regarding the actual impacts of its proposed co-locations, including both schools’ ability to comply with impending requirements of the new Class Size Law.”
Attorneys for the United Federation of Teachers were joined in the legal action by Advocates for Justice Legal Foundation, along with a teacher and parents of children from the affected schools.
The schools involved include the Waterside School for Leadership in Far Rockaway, Queens, and the Sheepshead Bay Educational Campus that is home to Origins High School, Professional Pathways High School, and New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science III.
According to the lawsuit, the DOE underestimated the effects of the co-locations by assuming that current class sizes in these schools would continue into the foreseeable future, ignoring the requirements of the new state class size law.
Under that law, all schools will have to cap class sizes in kindergarten through grade three at twenty students; grades four through eight at twenty-three students; and grades nine through twelve at twenty-five students, to be phased in over five years, starting next fall.
According to the lawsuit, many classes in two of the existing schools are already far above those limits and will require additional space to lower class sizes to mandated levels. Yet this need is never mentioned in the legally-required Educational Impact Statements (EIS) for these co-locations, nor is there sufficient space allocated to these schools to be able to reduce class size to mandated levels in the future.
Absent from the EIS is any mention that students at Waterside will lose their science lab, and that all four schools may lose many other dedicated rooms needed to deliver intervention and special education services.
Estherll Dorancy, the PTA President of Waterside School for Leadership said, “Parents weren’t even aware of what was going on when these decisions were being made. Our students will lose classrooms needed to lower their class sizes and their science lab, which is critical if they are going to be able to pass their 8th-grade state science exams.”
As the lawsuit makes clear, the DOE is legally required to produce in-depth EIS reviews. According to the lawsuit, “the DOE is going through the motions of what the law requires instead of actually complying with it.”
Irina Pistsov, another parent at the Waterside School for Leadership said, "The science lab is a critical resource for students at Waterside and it is already a challenge to provide adequate lab time to meet state standards."
As the lawsuit maintains, there is nothing in any of the EISs produced for these proposed co-locations, or in the Instructional Footprints upon which they are based, “that ensure or even analyze whether there would be sufficient dedicated spaces for students with disabilities to receive their mandated services after the co-locations occur.”
The parties seek an injunction to prevent the co-locations from occurring until and unless the DOE complies with the requirements of the Education law -- “to provide the impacted students, parents, community, and members of the Panel for Educational Policy with adequate specific information about major changes to their school’s space and how these changes will impact the education of the existing and prospective students.”