New York Daily News
A judge was right to deny baseless suits by the teachers union and the state NAACP
So much for the heated rhetoric that the Education Department was violating the civil rights of minority students by asking traditional public schools to share space with charter schools.
And so much for the United Federation of Teachers' attempt to protect its members' jobs in 22 persistently failing schools that had been targeted for closure.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Paul Feinman skunked the UFT and its badly misguided ally, the New York State branch of the NAACP, in their attempt to block the closures and to prevent the opening or expansion of 15 charters.
In denying both parties a preliminary injunction, Feinman saw clearly that they had drawn him more into the middle of a fight over school policy rather than into a strictly legal dispute.
Wisely, he noted that the job of refereeing public debate over reforming the public schools is not the province of a judge:
"The court is not permitted, nor would it be appropriate, to substitute its own view of this complex societal question of how best to educate our children for the conclusions already reached by the legislative and executive branches."
The UFT had sought to prevent the closures, in part, by arguing that the department failed to get the okay from the state education commissioner.
But that very welcome approval came through just as Feinman was ruling that "there is no clear and convincing evidence that these low-performing schools could be so easily turned around" in a way preferred by the union.
He added: "If the failing public schools are not closed, students may be subject to substandard educational environments which will obviously cause them to be considerably harmed."
Similarly, Feinman let the charters move ahead based on a finding that plans to have them share space in school buildings had been properly approved by the city's governing panel.
Not a single one of the NAACP's claims that the department had lavished facilities on charter students to the detriment of others merited even a mention in the decision. Both groups, by the way, are overwhelmingly black and Hispanic, making the NAACP's assertions even more specious.
"Barring the charter schools from expanding into the public schools will cause considerable difficulty to students already slated to start the 2011-12 school year as scheduled, and would cause these schools hardship in attempting to locate, and pay for, private leased space," the judge concluded.
While the UFT is determined to press on, Feinman's ruling stands as a landmark in the judiciary's consideration of school governance issues under the Legislature's convoluted regulations for reshaping schools.
He put the parties in their proper place - City Hall in charge, the union denied the courtroom as a stage for asserting control - and acted in the interest of the kids.
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