Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Parents, educators, UFT launch court action to block co-location of two Success Academy charters with Queens and Brooklyn public schools

Updated 5.12.2023

Though Judge Frank ruled against Success Academy request to intervene in the lawsuit, they appealed his decision to the Appellate Court, which has now agreed to hear their appeal on May 30, further delaying the resolution of this case (though Success claims they don't want to delay its resolution, really?) Thus the argument in court on the merits of the lawsuit that was originally scheduled for May 25 is now postponed.


Updated 5.3.23

Judge Lyle Frank rules against Success Academy request to intervene in the lawsuit:

"petitioners contend that Proposed Intervenor’s interests are irrelevant to the ultimate issue at hand, that being whether respondents acted arbitrarily, capriciously, or unlawfully. The Court agrees. While the Court agrees that the Proposed Intervenor has an interest in the outcome of the litigation, the motion is silent as to what position they will advance that will address the underlying petition and for which the respondents cannot adequately represent. To this Court, to allow the Proposed Intervenor to intervene would be repetitive, and would delay this litigation, which the parties all agree is time sensitive."  His full decision is posted here.  Argument in court is now scheduled for May 25 at 10 am.

Updated 4.18.23

Success Academy filed papers last night, requesting to intervene in the co-location lawsuit, and to push back the May 10 hearings for "two to three weeks" Their attorney is Jay Lefkowitz of Kirkland and Ellis.  Lefkowitz is well known in right-wing circles and helped get the sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein a cushy plea bargain in 2007, after Epstein had been found to have paid scores of young girls to engage in sex acts.  

According to Wikipedia, Lefkowitz attempted to "exonerate Epstein from the most serious offenses, bypassing the victims and painting Epstein's character as that of a benevolent benefactor figure..."   This plea deal was later ruled illegal, by not informing the victims in advance of making the agreement.  Here is the letter written by Lefkowitz to Alexander Acosta, his former law firm colleague, then the US attorney in South Florida, urging him not to notify Epstein's victims prior to making the deal.

Watch this space here for an update in case the court hearing is postponed.


March 29, 2023

See below press release about a new lawsuit filed by parents, teachers and the UFT against the DOE to prevent two charter co-locations in Queens and Brooklyn on the grounds that the Educational Impact Statements and the space estimations for these co-locations do not take into account or even mention the need to lower class size in compliance with the new state law, nor do they describe any of the actual educational impacts on students as legally required, including the loss of specialized spaces like science labs and dedicated rooms for special education and other intervention services.  Here is a Daily News article about the lawsuit.

Also available online: the Memo of law , Verified petition, my affidavit, and order to show cause.  The judge to the case, Judge Lyle Frank of the Supreme Court, found for parents and against the DOE in the budget cuts lawsuit, Tucker V.  the City of New York.  A court date has now been set for May 10 at 9:30 AM at 80 Centre St. Part II. 


For Immediate Release – Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Parents, educators, UFT launch court action to block co-location of two Success Academy charters with Queens and Brooklyn public schools

Lawsuit claims DOE failed to account for state law class size caps, needs of disabled students and more

Parents, a teacher, and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) today filed a lawsuit in Manhattan State Supreme Court charging that the New York City Department of Education violated state education law and its own regulations when it sought to co-locate two Success Academy charter schools into Queens and Brooklyn public schools without providing an in-depth analysis of how these co-locations would affect the students already in those public schools.

The city’s Panel for Education Policy voted in November and December in favor of the co-locations, but as the lawsuit says, “The DOE has misled parents, the public, and the PEP itself regarding the actual impacts of its proposed co-locations, including both schools’ ability to comply with impending requirements of the new Class Size Law.”

Attorneys for the United Federation of Teachers were joined in the legal action by Advocates for Justice Legal Foundation, along with a teacher and parents of children from the affected schools.

The schools involved include the Waterside School for Leadership in Far Rockaway, Queens, and the Sheepshead Bay Educational Campus that is home to Origins High School, Professional Pathways High School, and New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science III.

According to the lawsuit, the DOE underestimated the effects of the co-locations by assuming that current class sizes in these schools would continue into the foreseeable future, ignoring the requirements of the new state class size law.

Under that law, all schools will have to cap class sizes in kindergarten through grade three at twenty students; grades four through eight at twenty-three students; and grades nine through twelve at twenty-five students, to be phased in over five years, starting next fall.

According to the lawsuit, many classes in two of the existing schools are already far above those limits and will require additional space to lower class sizes to mandated levels. Yet this need is never mentioned in the legally-required Educational Impact Statements (EIS) for these co-locations, nor is there sufficient space allocated to these schools to be able to reduce class size to mandated levels in the future. 

Absent from the EIS is any mention that students at Waterside will lose their science lab, and that all four schools may lose many other dedicated rooms needed to deliver intervention and special education services.

Estherll Dorancy,  the PTA President of Waterside School for Leadership said, “Parents weren’t even aware of what was going on when these decisions were being made.  Our students will lose classrooms needed to lower their class sizes and their science lab, which is critical if they are going to be able to pass their 8th-grade state science exams.”

As the lawsuit makes clear,  the DOE is legally required to produce in-depth EIS reviews.  According to the lawsuit, “the DOE is going through the motions of what the law requires instead of actually complying with it.”

Irina Pistsov, another parent at the Waterside School for Leadership said, "The science lab is a critical resource for students at Waterside and it is already a challenge to provide adequate lab time to meet state standards."

As the lawsuit maintains, there is nothing in any of the EISs produced for these proposed co-locations, or in the Instructional Footprints upon which they are based, “that ensure or even analyze whether there would be sufficient dedicated spaces for students with disabilities to receive their mandated services after the co-locations occur.”

The parties seek an injunction to prevent the co-locations from occurring until and unless the DOE complies with the requirements of the Education law -- “to provide the impacted students, parents, community, and members of the Panel for Educational Policy with adequate specific information about major changes to their school’s space and how these changes will impact the education of the existing and prospective students.” 

Available for Interviews 

Estherll Dorancy: PTA president of Waterside School for Leadership

Irina Pistov: Parent at the Waterside School for Leadership

Elizabeth Weinert: Teacher, Professional Pathways High School

Michael Mulgrew: President, United Federation of Teachers


Friday, March 24, 2023

Council Education chair Rita Joseph and her colleagues urge Legislature -- don't raise the charter cap!

See letter below from Council Education Chair Rita Joseph and nine of her colleagues on the Council Education Committee, urging the leaders of the Legislature not to succumb to pressure from Governor  Hochul and the charter lobby to raise the cap on charters.  Below that is a press release with quotes from many education advocacy groups, including Class Size Matters.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that charter-loving billionaire and former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg has secretly been spending millions backing a new shadowy organization called "American Opportunity," run out of the Democratic Governor's Association, that is buying deceptive TV ads and sending mailers, urging people to contact their legislators to accept Hochul's budget, without mentioning the word "charter" since it might scare away those he is trying to lure into her camp.

Hochul and the charter lobby are pushing this proposal despite the fact that their enrollment is falling.  More than half of all NYC charter schools lost enrollment over the past three years, not including charters that opened or closed during that time; and 45%  lost enrollment this year, including the most aggressively expansionist Success Academy, down 7.7% despite spending over $13 million per year on marketing and recruitment.  

Success Academy is so desperate to recruit more students that according to an eyewitness account, they have hired people to hang out in playgrounds to hand out flyers and beg parents to enroll their children in their schools. 

We have a briefing on the history of the charter cap and why it should not be lifted; you can also send a message to your legislators here.