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UFT, CSA joining forces to halt school closures

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 4/16/2013, 4:50 p.m.
UFT, CSA joining forces to halt school closures

In the aftermath of the closing of two dozen schools across the city by the Department of Education (DOE), the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators (CSA) filed suit in New York State Supreme Court to prevent what they call a "sham."

The UFT and CSA want the 24 schools reopened immediately, in the same buildings and with the same students. The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and injunction that would be in effect until the issue can be resolved through arbitration.

In January, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that 33 schools would be closed and reopened, generally with new principals and with half the teachers replaced. Bloomberg said at the time that the step was necessary in order for the schools to be eligible for earmarked federal funds.

At a press conference in lower Manhattan last week, in front of New York Supreme Court, UFT President Michael Mulgrew and CSA President Ernest Logan said, "These sham closings are an attempt by the Department of Education to evade its duty to help these struggling schools succeed. We are asking the court to ensure that no final decisions are made on the staffing of these schools pending an independent review by an arbitrator on the issue of whether the DOE is trying to get around its labor agreements."

Mulgrew has said on various platforms that the DOE has changed its story several times when it comes to the recent school closures. He asserts that the DOE has said that even though the schools would in fact not be eligible for the earmarked federal funds, the "closing" process would go forward. The DOE then reduced the number of schools to 26, and then 24, and also told principals objecting to the loss of half their current teachers that that the number replaced could be less than 50 percent.

The UFT and CSA last week filed grievances with the DOE that accused the department of improperly identifying the 24 schools as "closing." Unless the DOE agrees that it has improperly identified these schools, the issue will go before an independent arbitrator.

Reports indicate that the city will use a clause in its contract with the UFT called "18-D." The clause is used to rehire teachers at schools. However, the UFT says that 18-D is only to be used for new and redesigned schools.

"Suing to stop closing schools that are leaving our children without a future says that your agenda is not to help children, it is some other agenda," Bloomberg said in one report.

Just a day after the UFT and CSA press conference, the DOE agreed in court that no decisions on personnel would be made in the 24 schools at issue until the court holds a hearing on May 16 on the UFT and CSA's request for an injunction.