Thursday, May 24, 2018

We won in court today to keep PS 25 open -- probably for at least another year!

See also my open letter to Chancellor Carranza in today's Washington Post Answer Sheet , urging him to revoke the decision of the previous Chancellor to close PS 25, and an article in the CSA News.  The NY Post , Politico, and Bklyner also wrote about our win in court.

Today in court, we won our temporary restraining order to keep PS 25 open! 

Judge Katherine Levine of the Kings County Supreme Court issued a decision from the bench that unless she has an epiphany in the next two weeks, the school will remain open next year and she will decide the complex legal merits of the case more carefully over the next few months.

She seemed impressed with our research showing how all the other 33 schools DOE offered these students to apply to 1- all had far lower positive impact ratings 2- many of them were miles away, 19 of the schools in Staten Island alone 3- 25 were overcrowded, and 4- none had class sizes as small as PS 25.  And the DOE has not offered to provide busing for the students.

In short, she was impressed that in most every other proposal to close schools, the DOE had promised higher performing schools that students could apply to, but they didn’t in this case, because according to DOE's own estimation, there are only three other public elementary schools as good as PS 25 in the entire city and they are full.  

In fact, the City itself admitted in their response papers to the lawsuit that according to the school performance dashboard, PS 25 is the "second best public elementary school in Brooklyn and the fourth best in the City, and that PS 25 outperforms charter school other than Success Academy Bronx 2 in its positive impact on student achievement and attendance."

The Judge was also interested in the zoning issue, and that the CEC hadn’t voted to approve the closing of a zoned school.  The City argued instead that they hadn't changed any zoning lines, but that they had just eliminated the zoned school, which is absurd.  As the  PS 25 plaintiffs' memo of law points out, argued by Laura Barbieri, the pro bono attorney from Advocates for Justice who argued the case:

“Entirely eliminating a zoned school and without replacing it with another zoned school, leaving the families in this neighborhood without any zoned school that their children have the right to attend, as occurred in this instance, is the most radical change in zoning lines that can be conceived.”

The Judge was concerned that there was little case law on this subject, but Laura explained the precedent of the Grinage case, in which in 2009, the NYCLU sued the DOE to block the proposal to close three zoned schools without a vote of the CECs.  Chancellor Klein, not a risk averse attorney himself, promptly withdrew these proposals just two weeks after the lawsuit was filed.  Yet incredibly, today in court, the City's attorney claimed that nine years later, Grinage was "still pending."

The Judge asked if the CEC hadn’t voted to approve this, what public input was there?  The DOE explained there were public meetings, etc. where parents expressed their concerns.  The Judge said but you don’t have to listen them, right? Is that the DOE’s  position?  

Finally, she asked the attorneys as regards the temporary restraining order: what’s the balance of harm?  What the worst that happens if I leave the TRO in place?  The PS 25 students have the benefit of an excellent school for another year?  

The City attorney tried to argue this would hold up assignments for all other 3000 kids at closing schools, but as the Judge responded, that was a "ridiculous" argument.  All those transfers and assignments can go through, this will only affect the students at PS 25. (Actually there aren’t 3000 kids in closing schools –  instead there are about 2000 kids in all and 661 in elementary schools, but none of them will be affected but the students at PS 25, whose parents want them to stay).

We were all whooping it up inside the courtroom when the Judge issued her decision from the bench, including PTA Vice President Crystal Williams, one of the plaintiffs.  Afterward, we all hugged and expressed huge relief. Above is a photo after the  hearings of PS 25 parents, supporters and our attorney Laura Barbieri, in front of the Kings County court house.  I just heard from Darcy Griffin, the PTA president, that the parents at PS 25 were all thrilled when they picked up their kids and heard the news.

Let's hope that the Chancellor withdraws the proposal to close this terrific school, as I urged him to do in today's Washington Post; which not only would serve the case of justice, preserve this excellent school, save the parents, teachers, and students at PS 25 much anxiety, and city taxpayer money.

Chancellor Carranza:  On Tuesday in hearings before the New York City Council, you spoke eloquently about how the city should be celebrating our successful public schools, rather than allowing others to denigrate them. In particular, you noted that you had seen some great teaching in Bed-Stuy schools. If you are serious about this, you should rescind the decision to close this school and instead celebrate its accomplishments.] 

The negative impact on PS 25 families would be severe if this closure is allowed to go forward, especially for the large number of homeless students, because the school is a sanctuary of stability in their lives. As Mark Cannizaro, the president of the CSA, the New York City principals’ union, has said, “the students, families and educators of PS 25 deserve better.”  Instead of closing this exceptional school, we urge you to honor PS 25’s achievements, emulate and expand it — and enable more NYC schools and students to have the same chance to succeed.

Congrats to the parents, students and teachers at this amazing school, to Laura Barbieri, our wonderful pro bono attorney, and my research assistant, Sebastian Spitz, who did much of the data and factual analysis for the case. Here are some of the legal briefs filed in the case, opposing the PS 25 closure:  
Memorandum of Law in Support of Preliminary Injunction to Stop the Closure of PS 25 
The memo of law explains the legal basis for why the DOE must keep PS 25 Eubie Blake open until the court is able to make a final decision on the legal merits, including the irreparable harm to its students if the school closes this year and they have to transfer to lesser schools.

Parents' Legal Petition Against the Closure of PS 25 This verified petition explains the background of the case, including PS 25's high quality, and the legal argument for why the DOE does not have the right to close the school.

Affidavit of Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters My affidavit explaining the research showing the importance of class size, and how PS 25's small class sizes are a critical reason for the school's success.

Appendix to Leonie Haimson's Affidavit: Summary of Class Size Reduction Research on the proven benefits, in the short term and long term, of small class sizes, especially disadvantaged children who make up the overwhelming majority of PS 25 student population.

Affidavit of Crystal Williams  Crystal Williams, parent of two students at PS 25 and the Vice President of the PS PTA, explains how PS 25 has helped her children and why she and other parents oppose its closure.

Order to Show Cause and Request for Temporary Restraining Order to Stop the Closure of PS 25 This document requests that the court prevent the DOE from taking any further steps to close PS 25 until the court decides on its legality. 

Here are the response documents filed by the City:

Verified Answer of DOE in PS 25 Case  The DOE explains why they want to close PS 25 – though they admit on p. 3 that according to their school performance dashboard,  it is the 2nd best public elementary school in Brooklyn and the fourth best n the city and outperforms all other charter schools than Success Academy Bronx 2 in its positive impact on student achievement and attendance.

Analysis of Public Comments on the Closure of PS 25 This document summarizes the various public hearings, etc. held about the school's proposed closure, revealing widespread public opposition to the plan. 

DOE's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Temporary Injunction and Show Cause
The Department of Education's argument explaining why they should have the right to close PS 25 before the court makes a final decision on the merits of the case. 



NYC Educator said...

Thanks for the great work you do, Leonie!

Anonymous said...

Did the UFT do anything to help PS 25 win this battle? I’m curious because all those teachers would have been excessed and the vast majority of them turned into ATRs. Those in the UFT are publicizing this victory with the silent assumption that those hearing about it will credit UFT involvement.