City Hall’s quest to close 24 schools is no more.
Last week, a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division–First Department upheld an arbitrator’s ruling that the city’s plans to overhaul schools that the city said were failing violated its contracts with the teachers and principal unions. The court said that the arbitrator “neither exceeded his powers … nor violated public policy in resolving the merits of the parties’ disputes.”
It’s a ruling that United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew could get behind.
“Instead of helping these 24 struggling schools, the mayor and the DOE [Department of Education] tried to unfairly force hundreds of good teachers out of their positions,” said Mulgrew in a statement. “This is the second court and the third independent voice that has told the mayor that his approach was wrong.”
During his State of the City speech in January of 2012, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he wanted to close the 24 schools and then immediately reopen them with different staff and personnel. The UFT immediately went into action and fought the decision through arbitration and won. On June 29, 2012, arbitrator Scott Buchheit ruled that Bloomberg violated both the UFT and Council of School Supervisors and Administrators’ contracts with his actions. The Department of Education immediately appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, which upheld the arbitrator’s decision a month later.
The 24 schools on the list were in the bottom 5 percent statewide when it came to performance.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has been chronicling these types of scenarios in cities across the country. She felt that the continued approach to education from the powers that be is failing, but it isn’t stopping them from going forward with their plans.
“The reckless policy of mass closings, mass firings, mass testing, mass privatization and mass budget cuts is destroying our public schools and hurting our children,” said Weingarten in a statement. “These policies have failed to improve teaching and learning, and disregard what teachers, students and parents want for their schools. And these top-down dictates ignore the startling fact that half of our public schoolchildren are now poor.”
The DOE still plans on phasing out some of the schools over the summer due to low performance. Other schools are getting new programs designed to attract stronger students.