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School aides facing layoffs have jobs for another week

The roughly 500 school aides the city has targeted for layoffs will keep their positions for another week under an extension of a temporary restraining order first issued last week.

State Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead ruled today that officials from D.C. 37, the union that represents the school aides and plaintiffs in the case, made a convincing argument that the layoffs violate parts of the state constitution and education law.

Edmead focused on D.C. 37’s argument that the city is illegally replacing unionized school aides with less expensive temporary workers who will not receive benefits. The judge found that the Department of Education’s contract for temporary workers to perform many of the same duties of the laid-off school aides may violate the state constitution and a chancellor’s regulation that requires school workers to report to the education department.

She also found that schools violate a chancellor’s regulation when they use parent association funds to hire their own aides for schools. In July, the city reached a deal that allowed parents to fund the school aides in spite of a long-ignored rule banning them. The union has argued that allowing schools with wealthier parent associations to hire their own aides while laying off union aides harms students in lower-income schools.

But the judge found that the union did not give enough evidence to support their claim that the school aide layoffs would disproportionately harm the city’s neediest children. She pointed out that the layoffs do not mean that schools will be left entirely without aides to perform vital functions in the schools.

“Thus, petitioners failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the School Professionals Contract perpetuates educational inequity and endangers the right of poor students to a sound education,” she wrote.

The ruling came after a day of testimony from several school aides slated to lose their jobs, including Sheanica Davis, whose school, Mosaic Preparatory Academy, was the site of a rally to save school aide jobs on Friday. All of the current aides at Mosaic are set to lose their jobs if the layoffs go through, though they will be replaced by more senior aides in the district.

Edmead acknowledged that the layoffs are distributed unequally around the city, however, noting that East Harlem’s District 4 will lose more than a fifth of their aides, while wealthier districts in Manhattan will lose just one percent.

“[I]t appears that the scheduled layoffs create a significant diminution of educational services and opportunity for poorer students, and contracting for Teacher Aides at the wealthiest schools in New york City does not promote an equal educational opportunity for all the students of New York City,” she wrote.

“I’m happy that the case is being reviewed by a Judge who understands the importance of the issues,” D.C. 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts said in a statement.

City officials have filed a motion to dismiss the suit altogether. Edmead said that she is likely to issue a decision for that request next Wednesday. The temporary restraining order extended today will last until then.

“We believe the court erred in this decision, and are hopeful that we will ultimately receive a favorable ruling on the City’s request to dismiss this case,” Georgia Pestana, the city’s chief labor attorney, said in a statement.

School Aides PI 10-27-09 – (# Legal 2469472)