Reprinted from The City Room of the New York Times
By JENNIFER MEDINA
A state appellate court ruled unanimously Thursday that the city must keep open the 19 schools it moved to close for poor performance, upholding a March ruling from a lower court.
The decision (see below) is a blow to one of the Bloomberg administration’s major efforts to turn around the city school system by shutting down schools it deems failing. Now, the city will be forced to place new students in those schools, although some have fewer than a dozen freshmen expected to enter.
The court, the Appellate Division, First Department, found that the city’s Education Department did not comply with the 2009 state law on mayoral control of the city schools in that it failed to indicate the ramifications of the school closings.
Instead, the court wrote in its opinion, the city’s educational impact statement “merely indicates the number of school seats that will be eliminated as a result of the proposed phaseout and states that the seats will be recovered through the phase-in of other new schools or through available seats in existing schools.”
The city failed to meet its obligation, the court wrote, “by providing nothing more than boilerplate information about seat availability.” The court wrote that education officials abused the discretion allowed by law by “limiting the information they provided to the obvious.” The decision concludes by noting that the court disagrees with the city’s contention that the violations were “so insignificant as to be totally inconsequential.”
The ruling represents a major victory for the city’s teachers union, which, along with the New York chapter of the NAACP, sued the city.
“No one is above the law, and every court that has looked at this issue has ruled decisively that the Department of Education violated the law when it tried to close these schools,” Michael Mulgrew, the president of the union, said in a statement.
Michael A. Cardozo, the chief lawyer for the city, said in a statement that the city is ”profoundly disappointed by the court’s decision and are exploring our appellate options.”