Caroline Kennedy is the vice chairman of the Fund for Public Schools. The state assembly's decision to study whether the Fund for Public Schools should be exempt from a state law that asks nonprofits for detailed financial disclosure reports is something to watch. That's because the charity group's exemption stems from a claim that has enabled the city Department of Education to opt out of a list of other laws and protocols: the notion that the Department of Education is not legally a city agency, and therefore doesn't have to follow city law. The claim doesn't come from nowhere; the city school system has been a state-authorized entity since it was created in the 1840s, and only briefly became a fully city-run entity, thanks to a power play by Boss Tweed circa 1873. But the claim is important because it's the reason the DOE has given for exempting itself from a laundry list of other city laws and protocols over the years. So if the assembly forces the Fund to disclose its finances, that could produce a ripple effect. Here's a partial list of laws and protocols the DOE has avoided via this claim, compiled largely from a list Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters put together in testimony (Word doc) to a mayoral control panel recently:
After more than 15 years arguing in courts that the city's public schools are illegally under-funded, a long lawsuit that ended in 2006 in a victory, could the financial crisis and the budget cuts it's causing pull education advocates back to court? Hard to imagine, but increasingly it does seem possible. When I talked earlier this week to the Helaine Doran, the deputy director of the group that filed the lawsuit, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, she was cautious about legal action. "We have no process of like, ‘Oh yes, we’re going back to court immediately,’” she said. “You have to look at the numbers and figure it out." But there's growing momentum suggesting court may be a possibility. Michael Rebell's editorial in the Daily News today uses stronger language.