Catching up on articles over at the WSJ, I came across this gem last month from Barbara Martinez. It describes how the teachers unions in NY are suing again to stop the closure of failing schools. This article illustrates the power of the teachers unions and the powerlessness of the taxpayers, who continue to subsidize failure and are asked to continue to shoulder the burden of educational costs. The article is reposted below.
The fate of tens of thousands of students was thrown into question Wednesday after the United Federation of Teachers and the NAACP sued to block the city’s plans to shut down 22 failing schools, a move that threatened to derail a major Bloomberg education initiative for a second year in a row.
The lawsuit echoes another the UFT filed last year that successfully halted the administration’s plans to close 19 schools. Two courts sided with the UFT last year. The lawsuit goes to the heart of a national philosophical divide about failing schools. In general, teachers unions believe that districts have an obligation to fix schools, while others, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hold that some schools are so troubled that the only choice is to shut them down and replace them with potentially better schools.
At a press conference, schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott blasted the lawsuit as “outrageous” and said the action will “hold hostage” thousands of students who are set to attend certain schools.
“Students now have to wait and wonder” whether they can attend the school they chose or were assigned to, Mr. Walcott said. “It’s unacceptable, and we’re not going to tolerate that. We’re going to fight. Right now the UFT and the NAACP are denying our students quality options.”
About 70,000 students have already been matched to city high schools, and thousands more have gone through the charter lottery process to determine their schools.
Hours earlier, Michael Mulgrew, the UFT’s president, said at a press conference that the DOE “has not learned its lesson.” He said the lawsuit is based on the DOE’s failure to satisfy an agreement it reached with the UFT to support failing schools before deciding to close them. The suit also charges that charter schools are getting better access to facilities than the traditional schools in the same buildings, which would be contrary to state law that mandates equal treatment among schools.
Those on the side of the teachers union, which includes a number of City Council members who attended the UFT press conference, community advocates and parents, said the city’s process of phasing out schools one grade at a time is disruptive to the students that are left behind. In addition, the lawsuit charges that charter schools that are placed in traditional school buildings get better access to amenities such as libraries, cafeterias and gyms.
Mr. Mulgrew said that after losing the legal fight to close schools last year, the DOE agreed to support the failing schools with more staff and other assistance, but he said that never materialized.
The DOE “is depriving students of tools and resources to achieve academically,” said Ken Cohen, regional director of the New York State Conference of the NAACP. Mr. Cohen said that at Jamaica High School, for instance, the new schools have smart boards while the students at the school being phased out have “broken blackboards.”
Mr. Walcott rejected all of the lawsuit’s allegations, saying the motivation was to protect jobs, not students. He said he was particularly disappointed in the role that the NAACP has played in the new lawsuit and last year’s, saying the group “is defending schools that are failing our children.”
Mr. Walcott cited the performance numbers of the schools on the closure list. For the elementary and middle schools, he said average English-language proficiency is 16%, compared to 42% citywide. In math, it is 19% versus 53%. The average graduation rate of the closing high schools is 49%, compared with the city’s average of 63%, the DOE said.
“These figures are not something to brag about,” Mr. Walcott said. “They should be with us,” he said, referring to the union.
Write to Barbara Martinez at Barbara.Martinez@wsj.com