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Week In Review

Week In Review

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New York

Librarian recruits Cornel West to Harlem school that could close

New York

As co-location construction starts, the UFT weighs its next steps

New York

As city revises space-sharing plans, settlement looks possible

A contentious legal battle between the city and the teachers union could be inching toward a settlement as school officials race to re-write plans that are key to the dispute. In the past month, city officials have revised each of 20 space-sharing plans outlining how charter schools would be housed inside district buildings. The way that previous plans allocated space between charter and district schools is a central criticism of the teachers union's lawsuit. The sweeping revision effort is in direct response to the lawsuit, filed May 18, Chancellor Dennis Walcott acknowledged in a statement. Several of the plaintiffs listed on the lawsuit praised the revisions and indicated that they might lead to an out-of-court settlement. In a conference call with reporters, Ben Jealous, the president of the NAACP, a lead plaintiff in the suit, said his organization’s ultimate goal was to place all students in their school of choice. "We are open to all options to settle this suit," he said. Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, said in an interview today that he was "happy" with the efforts. UFT lawyers, he said, have expressed cautious optimism that the revised plans would satisfy their demands. The city's move means that the plans, many of which were already approved by the Panel for Educational Policy, will require new votes by the PEP and new public hearings to solicit community feedback on their terms. The city began holding new hearings this week.
New York

NAACP's Dukes defends suit: "I'm not against charter schools"

Hazel Dukes, the president of the NAACP of New York, said last night on NY1 that she supports charter schools but wants equal conditions for children attending district schools. In a television interview last night, the president of the NAACP of New York insisted that she does not oppose the opening of charter schools or the closure of failing schools — even as she defended her organization's role in a lawsuit that would reverse planned school closures and slow charter school growth. Speaking to NY1 Inside City Hall host Errol Louis, Hazel Dukes said that she only wanted district schools to have the same conditions as charter schools, which she praised. "Let's make it an equal playing field," she said. "That's not hard to do. We can do that with the stroke of a pen." She added, "My motive is not to keep any failing schools open. My motive has never been to say that teachers who can't teach need to be in schools. My motive is two things: justice and equality." Hazel Dukes said she her goal wasn't to prevent charters from opening but that the process was hurried. The biggest effect, she said, was overcrowding in school buildings, which she said has a disproportionate — and negative — impact on district school students. "Mr. Louis, tell me why all children can’t have the same amount of library time. Tell me why all children can’t have access to a playground," she said. The lawsuit, which the NAACP co-filed with the United Federation of Teachers and a host of elected officials and parents, aims to halt the closure of 22 district schools and plans to co-locate 20 charter schools inside district space. City school officials have said that a victory could disturb high school admission plans for the fall, and charter school leaders have said that, without the city space that they were counting on, they would not be able to open schools that children already plan to attend.
New York

In court, UFT and NAACP ask for immediate halt to closure plans

New York

NAACP fighting back with pro-lawsuit rally of its own

Pushing back against criticism of its involvement in a lawsuit that could negatively affect charter schools, the NAACP has announced plans to stage a rally of its own tomorrow. The historic civil rights group and its supporters plan to rally tomorrow morning outside the offices of the Success Charter Network. The charter school chain's CEO, Eva Moskowitz, was a leader in galvanizing parents to protest the NAACP's involvement in the lawsuit. The NAACP's rally, which will feature elected officials named as plaintiffs in the suit, is the latest episode in a dust-up that makes race a central issue in the ongoing battle over charter school co-locations. Since the NAACP signed on last month to a union-initiated lawsuit to stop 22 school closures and prevent 17 charter schools from opening, moving, or expanding, charter school parents and advocates have been battering the group. Black parents whose children attend charter schools are questioning why the NAACP, which has long fought for education equity for black students, would stand in the way of their interests. They held a 2,500-person strong rally against the NAACP in Harlem last week and yesterday appeared at the Midtown office of the group's New York leader, Hazel Dukes. Last week, Dukes told me she joined the lawsuit for the same reason that the NAACP brought the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, which ended “separate but equal” schooling based on race. “Co-location is not the answer,” Dukes said. “We are setting up separate and unequal education.” "Because of the NAACP’s stand for all children, they are being criticized by those who seek to only divide our community, pitting parent against parent, and distorting the facts about the lawsuit against the NYC DOE," states a press release about the event tomorrow.
New York

In Harlem, charter school parents and students target NAACP

Students and families protested today in Harlem against the NAACP's involvement in a lawsuit against school closures and charter school co-locations with district schools. (Chris Arp) About 2,500 people rallied in Harlem this morning, calling on the NAACP to withdraw from its lawsuit with the teachers union against the city Department of Education. That lawsuit seeks to stop the closure of 22 schools as well as the placement of several charter schools in district school space. Speakers at Thursday’s rally included charter school parents and teachers, Harlem Children's Zone president and CEO Geoffrey Canada, and the actor Seth Gilliam from “The Wire,” whose child is a on a waiting list for a charter school. Speakers and attendees denounced the NAACP’s participation in a lawsuit they said would harm charter schools primarily serving students of color. "Ms. Dukes, turn your back on this lawsuit,” said Kathy Kernizan, the parent of a student at the Uncommon Schools charter network, referring to Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference. A letter to Dukes with signatures from charter school advocates was circulated through the crowd asking the organization to withdraw from the suit. A spokesperson for the New York City Charter Center, which helped organize the event, said that more than 2,000 signatures had been collected this week. “We gotta demand quality education,” Canada told the crowd. “We have to be prepared to fight for that.” The city Department of Education's proposal calls for two of the charter schools associated with the Harlem Children's Zone, the Promise Academy charter schools, to be co-located inside district schools. The charter center spokesperson said the protest, held outside the Harlem State Office building at 125th Street, was not the work of any one organization. But at least two groups appear to have taken leading roles: the charter center, an advocacy and support organization for charter schools in the city, and the Success Charter Network created by Eva Moskowitz. Many of the families at the rally had children at one of the Success network's nine schools. (Seven of the network's schools are named in the lawsuit.) Click here for a slideshow of photographs from the rally.
New York

Charter parents to rally against NAACP's lawsuit involvement

New York

Teachers union lawsuit takes aim at 22 school closures

For the second time in two years, the city teachers union is suing to stop the Bloomberg administration from closing schools and opening new ones in their place. The union's lawsuit, which it filed along with the NAACP and a host of elected officials and parents, challenges plans to close 22 of the 26 schools that education officials hope to phase out this year. Last year, the union successfully stopped the city from closing 19 schools by persuading a State Supreme Court judge that the closures violated various requirements in the state's education law. These ranged from not following the law about public notification of hearing dates to failing to failing to map out the predicted impact of school closures. This year, the city took pains to follow public notification rules, beginning the process earlier in the year, and by last month, 26 schools had ended up on the chopping block. Perhaps as a result, the United Federation of Teachers' argument against closures this year is broader and more complicated. And unlike last year, the union is also seeking to prevent charter schools from moving into public school buildings, charging that the city did not prove the co-locations would be equitable. “The department continues to insist that phase-outs and closures of schools and co-locating untested schools is the answer, while depriving the remaining students in those designated, 22 schools of the resources to succeed academically,” said Kenneth Cohen of the NAACP at a press conference this morning. Chancellor Dennis Walcott — who said he learned about the suit not from UFT President Michael Mulgrew but from a reporter this morning — said he was "saddened" by the suit. As deputy mayor, Walcott decried the NAACP last year for its involvement in the school closure lawsuit because he said the group prevented the city from improving school choices. "We totally disagree with the union," Walcott said. "We have met the letter of the law and we will continue to meet the letter of the law as far as these schools are concerned."
New York

Dukes asks Assembly to bite the mayor like that groundhog did

Hazel Dukes, president of the New York NAACP, urged Assembly members to make changes to mayoral control By now you know a bunch of the highlights from the big mayoral control hearing Friday. Diane Ravitch argued for taking power away from the mayor, the administration argued for keeping it, and some students summed the whole thing up pretty nicely. But there were other highlights, too, that I didn't go over Friday. Here's a rundown: New York NAACP President Hazel Dukes charged the Bloomberg administration with over-stating its civil rights accomplishments. "Despite repeated claims, the achievement gap has not diminished in any grades or subjects since this administration came to office," she said. Dukes also advised Assembly members to carve into the mayor's control of the schools by adding checks and balances to the power of the mayor and chancellor. "You got to put the teeth in now, and when they don't do it, just like that groundhog did the other day, you're going to have to bite," she said. "We need to make sure that no man, not any man in this city or woman can just have all the power about our children." Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, whose sister is the famous TV personality Rosie O'Donnell, criticized the Bloomberg administration for having too few educators control education policy. He described a meeting with a senior education policy aide to the mayor. When O'Donnell asked about her background, the adviser said she went to school, became a lawyer, and has siblings who are educators. "My sister used to have a very famous talk show, but that doesn't make me qualified to be an executive at NBC," O'Donnell said.