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UFT sues city over planned school closings

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Even though the city finalized its controversial plan to close down 19 city high schools, including Jamaica High, Beach Channel HS and one of the Campus Magnet institutions, the teacher’s union is still putting up a fight to prevent the move from becoming a reality.

The United Federation of Teachers announced Monday that it had filed a lawsuit against the city Department of Education for violating the state’s school governance law when it voted last week to shut down the schools. The suit, filed in Manhattan Civil Court, seeks to overturn the vote that UFT President Michael Mulgrew said would affect 13,000 students across the city.

“Last year we worked with the mayor and the chancellor in Albany to craft a renewal of mayoral control legislation that would address the needs of the community to be heard in important Department of Education decisions. The mayor and the chancellor publicly embraced those changes. But now, when faced with implementing its plan for school closings, the department failed to follow the law,” he said in a statement.

Prior to amendments made to the governance law, which was approved again last year by the state Legislature, the chancellor had to consult with the Community Education Council of any school that was slated to be closed before the vote, according to the suit.

An amendment made to the law requires the chancellor to “conduct a substantive study of the potential impacts of such closing on current and prospective students as well as the community, and report that underlying analysis in an Education Impact Statement that was to be publicly available and also filed with the affected stakeholde­rs,” the UFT said.

City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein failed conduct such a report on the schools slated for closing, according to Mulgrew.

Jamaica High, Beach Channel High and the Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship Magnet High, a Campus Magnet campus, were three of 19 schools slated to be phased out in the fall by the DOE. Last week, the city Panel for Educational Policy voted 9-4 to shut down the schools despite heavy protests from parents, students and elected officials.

In a response to the lawsuit, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott said the DOE made its decisions justly and is working to help the teens affected.

“We have a proven track record of phasing out failing schools and replacing them with schools that better serve our students,” he said in a statement.

The suit has many backers, including City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing). Meng, an attorney, said the lawsuit was needed to help the children who attend the doomed Queens high schools.

“I feel strongly that the measurements being utilized in the determination of closures are seriously flawed. When the parameters of measurement are invalid, the conclusions have no justificat­ion,” she said in a statement.

Connor Adams Sheets contributed to this article.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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