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New York

UFT lawsuit pushes back on education department redactions

A page from a batch of Department of Education emails released in June was almost completely redacted when it was released in response to a Freedom of Information Law request. The UFT is suing over the scope of the department's redactions. The city teachers union wants the Department of Education to justify withholding large swaths of information in emails it released to the union earlier this year. The UFT announced today that it is filing a lawsuit charging that the department redacted more than it should have when it fulfilled a union request for internal emails earlier this year. The emails were the target of a May 2010 Freedom of Information Law request by the UFT. The union wanted to see the communication exchanged between top department officials and charter school supporters in late 2009 and early 2010, a period when legislators were under pressure to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state. The department did not quickly release the emails, saying that the request was too broad when it deferred the request each month. In April, two years after first asking for the emails, the union filed suit over the delay, and shortly after that, the department started releasing the emails in sections. The emails shed some light on the department's internal communications and showed that then-Chancellor Joel Klein kept close tabs on legislative advocacy around charter schools. But to a significant extent, they revealed nothing. "The latest internal Department of Education emails to come to light are mostly dark: The 228 pages released today contain large swaths of blacked-out text," we wrote in June, when the city released hundreds of messages from December 2009.
New York

The missing SCI reports are notable for what they don't include

PHOTO: Nicholas GarciaThe receptionist at the office of the Special Commissioner of Investigations, Richard Condon. Condon's staff takes up more than an entire floor at its financial district building. I just picked up the 600 pages of reports on wrongdoing and misconduct by city school employees that got sent to Chancellor Joel Klein in 2007 and 2008, but never surfaced publicly. The Post highlighted some of the contents: a Stuyvesant librarian's unauthorized field trips to a Quiz Bowl, a substitute teacher who showed students a movie in which he appeared with a semi-naked woman. But the biggest story is what is not in this file: Any investigations into top or even mid-level Department of Education officials, or any evidence of educators fudging student performance data to make their school look better. The absence is matched by a similar drought among those investigations that have been publicized. The development suggests one of two conclusions. On one hand, the new reports could disprove critics' concerns that growing pressure to produce higher test scores and graduate more students has led some educators to cheat. They could also squash the speculation that the Special Commissioner of Investigations, Richard Condon, somehow managed to cover up looks into higher-profile targets. On the other hand, the cynical conclusion is that high-level misbehavior and cheating are happening with little intervention from an office whose purpose is to investigate schools for misconduct.