Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Commissioner King sued in state court for ignoring public participation requirements in C4E law

As we have made clear in our presentations to Community Education Councils  and other parent and community groups, the State Education Department and the NYC Department of Education are equally guilty in ignoring the Contracts for Excellence (C4E) law passed in 2007, which requires public participation and accountability in the development of the city's C4E and class size reduction plans. 

In recent years, DOE has presented their C4E "plan" at CEC meetings held in the fall and the winter, long after these funds have been already been allocated and spent; and the city has refused to hold borough hearings for many years, as is explicitly required in the law.   The result has been dismal -- instead of reducing class size, as the law demands, class sizes have increased for the last five years and are now the largest in 14 years in the early grades.
As far as we know, the city's class size reduction/ C4E plan from LAST year (2011-2012) hasn't yet been approved by the state, nearly two years after the money has been spent.  In the law, not only was there supposed to be a robust feedback process from parents and community members before the city's plan was submitted and approved by the state, but then an audit was supposed to be done to see if the city actually spent the money according to its approved plan.   It is  impossible to audit the city's use of the C4E funds -- which amount to more than $500 million per year -- if the money is spent  long before the plan is approved.
The folks at the Education Law Center have now filed a lawsuit in state court, on behalf of parents Lisa Shaw, Karen Sprowal, Shino Tanikawa, and Isaac Carmignani, against Commissioner King, pointing out how his overdue scheduling and lax oversight  itself constitutes a violation of the C4E law, and asking that borough hearings be held in NYC in May and June, and the city's plan for these funds -- more than $500 million per year -- be submitted and approved before the fall, when these funds are spent. Below is the ELC press release, the lawsuit is posted here
New York City public school parents have turned the spotlight on State Education Commissioner John B. King and the New York State Education Department, charging that the state, like the city, has violated the Contract for Excellence (C4E) law.
On May 10, a second lawsuit was filed regarding implementation of the C4E law, this time against Commissioner King and the State Education Department.
In March, parents charged New York City Chancellor of Education Dennis M. Walcott and the NYC Department of Education (DOE) with ignoring the law, which mandates public involvement in development of the C4E spending plan for each school year. The parents in both lawsuits are represented by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), a project of Education Law Center.
"For several years now, the accountability provisions inherent in the state's Contract for Excellence law have been ignored by both the State and City Education Departments," said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters. "The state has failed to require that the city hold borough hearings about the spending of C4E funds."
"It is no wonder, then, that no one really knows what the city has done with more than $500 million in annual C4E funds, and that class sizes have ballooned, despite the C4E mandate that they be reduced," Haimson added.
In fact, over the past two years, the DOE has failed to hold any borough-wide hearings on New York City's C4E plan, said Wendy Lecker, CFE Senior Attorney. The recently filed petition charges that New York State's Education Commissioner abets the DOE's bad behavior.
Despite the legal mandate, Commissioner King has consistently permitted districts to delay public hearings until after the school year has already begun, preventing the public from providing timely input on the spending plans and undermining the goal of the law.
"Having meaningful input into how the C4E dollars are spent is one of the most empowering and important things that we can do as parents and advocates for the children of New York City," said Isaac Carmignani, co-president of the Community Education Council for District 30 and a parent petitioner in this case. "It is imperative that our children get what they are owed. Coming from the sixth most overcrowded city community school district out of 33, this has special meaning for me. I look forward to being able to provide meaningful input at timely hearings in the future."
Education Law Center Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24


Unknown said...

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Venetta said...

This is cool!