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UFT, city agree to court date; two charter schools jump in fray

The city and teachers union have two weeks to prepare arguments in their battle over school closures and charter school co-locations, according to an agreement hammered out today between both sides and the state judge who will preside over the case, a union official said.

That means that school officials will have to wait to learn whether the judge, Paul Feinman of the state supreme court, will grant the teachers union the temporary restraining order it requested. The order would immediately halt school closure and co-location plans even before the court decides whether they are ultimately illegal, as the UFT and NAACP charged in a lawsuit last month.

Lawyers for the education department did not immediately respond to confirm the details, but UFT spokesman Dick Riley said both sides are due back in court on June 21, when Feinman is expected to hear their arguments.

In the meantime, the sides agreed on basic terms similar to what the plaintiffs seek out of the restraining order. First, the Department of Education is required “to maintain student records” and “school choices for all students involved in schools in the litigation,” Riley said.

Second, any current construction underway as part of co-location plans must cease immediately.

It’s not clear if any such projects have begun, since the last day of school isn’t until June 28. Requests to confirm the agreement details with the Department of Education were not answered tonight.

The lawsuit, filed jointly last month by the city teachers union and NAACP, accuses the Bloomberg administration of disproportionately favoring students enrolled in public charter schools while withholding resources from struggling district schools. The suit seeks to reverse a plan to close 22 low-performing schools and replace them with new or expanding charters for the 2011-2012 school year.

This is the second consecutive year that the two organizations teamed up to sue over school closures, but last year’s case — which the union and NAACP won — hinged mainly on a procedural error made by the education department.

Meanwhile, at least two charter schools that are planning to get space inside district schools said that they plan to jump in the legal battle themselves. A law firm representing two of the charter schools intends to file a motion to intervene this week, according one of the schools’ founders, Rafiq Kalam Id-Din II.

Kalam Id-Din II said the motion is necessary to represent the best interests of his school, Professional Preparatory Charter School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and the 150 students registered to attend it in the fall.

“We feel like it’s important, as individual schools and as individual entities, to stand up and fight for the students and the families that are directly impacted by this lawsuit,” said Kalam Id-Din II.  “It’s an argument that the DOE isn’t in the best position to take from a legal perspective.”

Kirkland & Ellis LLP will represent Kalam Id-Din II’s school as well Invictus Preparatory Charter School, also in Brooklyn, a Kirkland spokesperson confirmed.