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Principals union sues Bloomberg and DOE over parking permits

The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators is suing Mayor Bloomberg, the city, and the Department of Education for refusing to restore thousands of parking permits to the union’s members.

According to the union, an arbitrator decided in August that the city had to return the permits or it would violate its contract with CSA. But that decision hasn’t ended the back-and-forth. After two weeks of discussions, the union’s legal counsel headed to court today to file a lawsuit.

“Nobody has gotten an answer from the City about why it won’t honor the arbitration,” a spokeswoman for CSA, Chiara Coletti, wrote in an email. Coletti said that the decision not to reinstate the 6,500 permits came from the mayor’s office.

Jason Post, a spokesman for the mayor, did not address whether the city felt it was in compliance with the arbitrator’s decision, but said the current system should continue.

“For most City agencies and their workers the system has worked well for over a year, yet the CSA has stubbornly tried to hold onto their perks and has refused to work with us to combat misuse and abuse. The current system for the Department of Education limits the number of placards to the number of parking spots at schools, a fair and reasonable policy that we think should continue. We have not yet received the legal papers for this case,” Post wrote in an email.

The crackdown on official parking placards, which allow city employees to park for free, began last year when Bloomberg announced a 20 percent reduction in the number of permits doled out to city agencies. This had an immediate effect on the city’s teachers and school administrators, though the latter has perused the issue more doggedly. At the time, city officials argued the number of available parking spaces around schools was significantly lower than the number of permits the city had handed out, creating a system in which city employees routinely used the placards to park illegally.

Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives, said the group, which has fought for fewer placards, disagreed with the arbitrator’s decision.

“I sympathize strongly with where the city is coming from,” Norvell said. “These placards are simply not a perk of the job.”

He said that in the past, teachers and principals had used the permits to park illegally, sometimes in front of fire hydrants or cross-walks.

“There’s no reason that you’re different from somebody working at a hospital or a convenience store,” he said of school employees. “The idea is these placards should be handed out by merit. If someone is working obscenely late hours and the bus route they use is not in operation during those hours, that’s one thing, but there’s a great many schools in New York City for which that wouldn’t apply.”

In a statement issued by CSA today, union president Ernest Logan accused the mayor and the DOE of an “arrogant violation of law.” “Our principals, assistant principals and administrators who travel from school to school, particularly those working in the outer boroughs, could be forced to continue cruising around city streets for hours a day, polluting the environment, and sacrificing time that they need to serve our children,” he said.

weekend update

How the education world is reacting to racist violence in Charlottesville — and to Trump’s muted response

PHOTO: Andrew Dallos/Flickr
A rally against hate in Tarrytown, New York, responds to the violence in Charlottesville.

For educators across the country, this weekend’s eruption of racism and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, offered yet another painful opportunity to communicate their values to families, colleagues, and community members.

Many decried the white supremacists who convened in the college town and clashed with protesters who had come to oppose their message. Some used social media to outline ideas about how to turn the distressing news into a teaching moment.

And others took issue with President Donald Trump’s statement criticizing violence “on many sides,” largely interpreted as an unwillingness to condemn white supremacists.

One leading education official, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, followed Trump’s approach, criticizing what happened but not placing blame on anyone in particular:

DeVos’s two most recent predecessors were unequivocal, both about what unfolded in Charlottesville and whom to blame:

Leaders of the nation’s two largest teachers unions responded directly to Trump:

The American Federation of Teachers, Weingarten’s union, is supporting vigils across the country Sunday night organized by chapters of Indivisible, a coalition that emerged to resist the Trump administration. The union also promoted resources from Share My Lesson, its lesson-plan site, that deal with civil rights and related issues.

“As educators, we will continue to fulfill our responsibility to make sure our students feel safe and protected and valued for who they are,” Weingarten said in a statement with other AFT officials.

Local education officials took stands as well, often emotionally. Here’s what the superintendent in Memphis, which is engaged in the same debate about whether Confederate memorials should continue to stand that drew white supremacists to Charlottesville, said on Twitter:

Teachers in Hopson’s district return for the second week of classes on Monday. They’ve helped students process difficult moments before, such as a spate of police killings of black men in 2016; here’s advice they shared then and advice that teachers across the country offered up.

We want to hear from educators who are tackling this tough moment in their classrooms. Share your experiences and ideas here or in the form below. 

Betsy DeVos

‘Underperformer,’ ‘bully,’ and a ‘mermaid with legs’: NYMag story slams Betsy DeVos

PHOTO: New York Magazine
A drawing of DeVos commissioned by an 8-year-old starts the New York Magazine article.

A new article detailing Betsy DeVos’s first six months as U.S. education secretary concludes that she’s “a mermaid with legs: clumsy, conspicuous, and unable to move forward.”

That’s just one of several brutal critiques of DeVos’s leadership and effectiveness in the New York Magazine story, by Lisa Miller, who has previously covered efforts to overhaul high schools, New York City’s pre-kindergarten push, and the apocalypse. Here are some highlights:

  • Bipartisan befuddlement: The story summarizes the left’s well known opposition to DeVos’s school choice agenda. But her political allies also say she’s making unnecessary mistakes: “Most mystifying to those invested in her success is why DeVos hasn’t found herself some better help.”
  • A friend’s defense: DeVos is “muzzled” by the Trump administration, said her friend and frequent defender Kevin Chavous, a school choice activist.
  • The department reacts: “More often than not press statements are being written by career staff,” a spokesperson told Miller, rejecting claims that politics are trumping policy concerns.
  • D.C. colleagues speak: “When you talk to her, it’s a blank stare,” said Charles Doolittle, who quit the Department of Education in June. A current education department employee says: “It’s not clear that the secretary is making decisions or really capable of understanding the elements of a good decision.”
  • Kids critique: The magazine commissioned six portraits of DeVos drawn by grade-schoolers.
  • Special Olympics flip-flop: DeVos started out saying she was proud to partner with the athletics competition for people with disabilities — and quickly turned to defending a budget that cuts the program’s funding.
  • In conclusion: DeVos is an underperformer,” a “bully” and “ineffective,” Miller found based on her reporting.

Updated (July 31, 2017): A U.S. Education Department spokesperson responded to our request for comment, calling the New York Magazine story “nothing more than a hit piece.” Said Liz Hill: “The magazine clearly displayed its agenda by writing a story based on largely disputed claims and then leaving out of the article the many voices of those who are excited by the Secretary’s leadership and determination to improve education in America.”