Sunday, July 31, 2011

Strategic Error Boxes-Out Class Size Reduction Complaint for Second Major UFT Legal Setback in Past Week

In an apparent miscalculation in the choice of proper forum for which to seek a remedy the Appellate Division, First Department this week, turned back a UFT/NAACP initiated lawsuit seeking proper allocation of Contract for Excellence funds toward class size reduction. Just a few days ago, the UFT/NAACP legal team was defeated in an attempt to stop the co-location of charter schools.

Late last year Bronx Supreme Court Justice John Barone denied the DOE’s motion to dismiss the proceeding. The City appealed and last Thursday the Appellate Division dismissed the lawsuit.

Contract for Excellence is a special State funded program which developed as an outgrowth of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit in 2003, and tied additional state education funds to certain criteria, including lowering class size. A plan is put together, each year since 2007-2008 by the DOE and submitted to the Commissioner of Education for approval. Upon approval the funds are released.

Within the Contract for Excellence legislation are provisions for parents and others to complain about the plan and its implementation. When it became apparent through a City comptroller audit that class size reduction promises were not being met and the additional funding was going to principals to spend how they wish, parents and others began to complain.

Despite the fact that the law requires complaints to first proceed to the state Commissioner of Education the UFT/NAACP legal team decided to commence litigation in Bronx  Supreme Court citing a New York Daily News article as proof of the futility of following this statutory route. The Appellate Division held that an allegation that a secret deal was made with the State Education Commissioner does not obviate the need to follow the statute’s review process and that the Commissioner's decision could be reviewed in Court.

Although the guidelines for the Contract for Excellence funding allocations have not been published for this year it is almost certain that the money will not go to class size reductions next school year. We will keep you advised.

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