Saturday, July 30, 2022

City strikes out so far in legal pleadings over budget cuts; freezes budgets & then unfreezes them; while at least 700 teachers have been let go.

Check out more about the lawsuit on this week's Talk out of School podcast, as explained by attorney Laura Barbieri and me, and two of the plaintiffs, Tamara Tucker and Paul Trust, hosted by Daniel Alicea.

The City has engaged in much legal wrangling, all unsuccessful so far, since Judge Lyle Frank granted a temporary restraining order against the school budget cuts last Friday, July 22 in  the lawsuit Tamara Tucker vs the City of NY, filed by parents and teachers on July 18. 

The City's  attorneys  asked the Judge for permission to file papers to vacate the TRO, and they submitted their papers on July 25, with the petitioners filing theirs on July 26.  The Judge turned down the City's request to reverse the TRO the next day, on July 27.

Then the City submitted an appeal to the Appellate Court to nullify Judge Frank's court order.  They actually filed two requests as the first one was incorrect on the proper procedure, along with more affidavits and yet another Memo of Law.  Brief oral arguments were heard at 12:30 PM yesterday, Friday, July 30.

What's peculiar is that at about the same time that oral arguments were being heard by the Appellate Judge, the DOE new COO, Emma Vadehra, sent an email to Superintendents that the DOE was shutting down their access to their schools' Galaxy budgets:

The reaction was fast and intense.  Principals expressed outraged that they couldn't access the budget lines to order books and plan programs.  Advocates and parents pointed out that the freezing of school budgets was totally contrary to what the court had ordered -- that no more cuts should be made to school budgets and that the budgets would be based on this year's spending levels, until the Judge could hear the case on August 4.  

Clearly, this was an attempt by the City to manipulate the Appellate court and/or the court of public opinion that the chaos and disruption that DOE claimed over and over again in its court documents was indeed occurring -- even though this was the result of the City's actions not the TRO.

In any case, at 3:30 PM, the Appellate Court Judge Bahaati E. Pitt, rejected the City's request to vacate the TRO.  

Meanwhile, the outrage only grew at the DOE's refusal to allow principals to access their budgets.   Laura Barbieri, the attorney for the plaintiff asked me to post the following statement on Twitter:

At some point, either late in the afternoon or into the evening, after a rash of negative articles and angry tweets, the City finally realized that the smoke and mirrors they had hoped to accomplish with the budget freeze hadn't worked.  At about 9: 25 PM last night, the Chancellor sent out the following email:

The Chancellor made no explanation of why this freeze had been imposed in the first place, or had now been ended.  In fact, there were no changes in the law or orders of the court since Judge Lyle Frank made his original decision to accept the Plaintiff's request for a TRO the week before.  Moreover, Banks erred in saying that "the appeals court has scheduled a further hearing on our motion" to vacate the TRO, as no such hearing has been scheduled.  

All the Appellate Judge did, as is standard procedure after rejecting the City's appeal, is to state that they can now try again by appealing her judgement to the full Appellate Court on August 5 if they insist--  which is after the August 4 date when Judge Lyle Frank will hear both sides' arguments in the Supreme Court.  

A lot of confusion for nothing and now the city has struck out four times; twice by Judge Frank and twice  -- for each of their appeals -- by Judge Bahaati E. Pitt.  It's not looking good for their side.  Most all the legal papers are here.

What's rather damning is that among the literally hundreds of pages of legal documents that the city has filed, nowhere do they actually contest the central claim of the lawsuit -- that the adoption of the education budget was done in a manner contrary to State Law, with the City Council voting before the Panel for Educational Policy (still known as the Board of Education in state law.)

Meanwhile, a DOE document was leaked on Friday, showing that at least 700 teachers have been excessed so far as a result of the budget cuts, which means they have been told by their schools that they are being let go. The NY Post wrote about this late Friday here.  

The full DOE powerpoint is below; and contains a lot of confusing data in an apparent effort to convince whoever saw it that many of these teachers will be hired elsewhere.  

It does show that over the last couple of years, the number of excessed teachers entering the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool has shrunk.  Yet that is likely a result of the fact that for the last two years, the DOE told principals they if they hired these teachers, the DOE would cover their salaries centrally.  As Deputy Chancellor Weisberg said at the June 28 Council hearings, and confirmed in this document in the final slide in a somewhat garbled manner, that is no longer the case.  

Since the vast majority of schools have seen their budgets cut significantly, it is likely that the ATR pool will sharply increase once more, as it did during the Bloomberg/Klein years.  Since all these teachers will receive their full salaries anyway, the question remains what actual savings these egregious cuts at the school level will  achieve.

No comments: