2011-07-21 "Judge Rules Against Union on City Plan to Close Schools" by Sharon Otterman from "New York Times" newspaper
In a defeat for the city’s teachers’ union, a judge ruled on Thursday that the Education Department could proceed with plans to close 22 schools because of poor performance and place 15 charter schools in the buildings of traditional schools in September.
In his ruling in a lawsuit brought by the union, the United Federation of Teachers, Justice Paul G. Feinman of State Supreme Court wrote that the suit had not met the standard that would be required for the court to immediately stop the city from moving forward. The union failed to clearly prove that the city had acted improperly in its treatment of the closing schools, the judge said, and the city’s plans to locate the charter schools had enough detail to challenge claims that the planning was deficient.
“Because plaintiffs have failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims,” the judge ruled, “their motion must be denied.”
But Justice Feinman did not dismiss the case entirely, and the union said on Thursday that it planned to move forward with other aspects of the lawsuit. Practically speaking, that means that all the schools will open and close as scheduled in September, even as the court battle continues.
“While Judge Feinman has declined our request for an injunction, his decision does not affect the underlying issues of fairness and due process” that are part of the lawsuit, said Dick Riley, a spokesman for the teachers’ union.
The lawsuit, filed in May, had threatened to alter arrangements for thousands of students at the opening of the school year and to set the stage for a logistical nightmare.
The N.A.A.C.P. had joined with the union in the suit, which among its other claims, said that the city had discriminated against traditional district schools by giving charter schools more time in common spaces like auditoriums and gymnasiums than the traditional schools whose buildings they will share.
Last year, the union and the N.A.A.C.P. prevailed in a similar lawsuit that focused only on school closings, and those schools remained open. The city was then ordered to take steps to improve the process by which it closed schools, and the union argued that those steps had not been taken.
The lawsuit rose to national attention over the last two months, largely because of the N.A.A.C.P.’s involvement. Critics charged that the civil rights organization was on the wrong side of the charter school issue because in New York City, many high-performing charter schools serve mostly black students.
But Hazel N. Dukes, the leader of the New York branch of the N.A.A.C.P., stood her ground, even after she was criticized for accusing a charter school mother of “doing the business of slave masters” by defending the school her daughter attended.
While the lawsuit will continue, the charter school operators and the schools chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, hailed the decision as a victory. The judge’s reasoning, they said, largely favored the city.
“I am incredibly heartened by the court’s decision tonight,” Mr. Walcott said. “I know this decision will come as great comfort and relief to the thousands of children who have been in limbo, wondering what the outcome of this case would be.”