I reported last week on the news that the teachers union, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and others are suing the city over the Department of Education’s plans to shut down struggling traditional public schools and replace them with charter schools. As I said, the lawsuit is a reaction to the city’s decision to install a growing number of charter schools inside traditional public school buildings.
The lawsuit is also part of the larger debate on who should rule the city’s public schools. For proof, view this video, taken by the union activist Norm Scott, of a Brooklyn rally at one of the public schools targeted in the lawsuit, PS 150 in Oceanhill-Brownsville. In it, City Councilman Charles Barron leads a crowd of students in a cheer that simultaneously opposes the plan to shut down PS 150 and replace it with three charter schools — and criticizes mayoral control. (“End mayoral control now!” the crowd ends up chanting at the end.)
Now, Barron is often far on the fringes of New York City politics. (He has praised Robert Mugabe.) But he’s not the only one making the connection between the controversy over charter school siting and the mayoral control fight. A source last week suggested to me that the lawsuit offers a window into the union’s thinking on the issue. The union, the source said, will probably push to prevent the mayor alone from making decisions to give space to charter schools. It will also likely challenge the mayor’s ability to give the chancellor the sole authority to shut down schools he deems struggling.