Unions representing teachers and principals are suing the city to stop the official closing of 24 schools, arguing education officials are pretending to shutter the schools without actually changing anything significant in a bid to illegally get rid of staff.
The United Federation of Teachers and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators filed court papers Monday seeking to force the city into arbitration on the issue. For the teachers union, it is the third lawsuit in as many years on school closures, all brought over different issues. The UFT won the first case, while the second is still pending.
Both the mayor and the education chancellor denounced the lawsuit.
"Suing to stop closing schools which are leaving our children without a future says that your agenda is not to help children — it is some other agenda," Bloomberg said during an unrelated appearance at City Hall.
Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the unions are jeopardizing the progress the city has achieved by replacing failing schools.
"The UFT and CSA have shown that they would rather leave our students' futures to the courts than do the difficult work of turning around failing schools and giving students the education they deserve," Walcott said in a statement.
The teachers union has pressed the city to give troubled schools more support instead of closing them, but in his State of the City speech this year, Bloomberg said that his administration would use the closures to remove ineffective teachers.
By formally closing the schools, the city paves the way for administrators to replace a significant portion of the staff. If the schools were not being closed, teachers would have some contractual rights to keep their positions.
On Monday, UFT lawyer Adam Ross called the closings a "sham," with little being changed at the schools except their identification numbers.
"These are not really closures," he said. "The only thing that they're changing in these schools is the identification number. It's the same students in the same buildings, doing the same things that they would do otherwise."
But Department of Education spokesman Matt Mittenthal said the new schools will have different names and programs than the closed schools, and may have mostly new teachers.