Seeking transparency about what happened in the city’s schools under Mayor Bloomberg, the United Federation of Teachers has filed a Freedom of Information Law request for a wide swath of Department of Education documents.
The union’s FOIL request includes 35 different topics, seeking documents related to curriculum, testing, student enrollment, school closures, teacher hiring, and many more issues. The union is even asking the department for a list of all of the records it keeps, even if the request doesn’t address them.
The mammoth request — which, given its scope and the city’s tendency to defer requests, is unlikely to be filled any time soon — is intended both to bring obscured documents to light and also prevent the Bloomberg administration from destroying documents as it turns the education department over to Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. Union lawyer Adam Ross notes in the request that state regulations prevent agencies from destroying documents while requests for them are pending.
“Mayor Bloomberg’s final weeks in office have been dedicated to bolstering his legacy, often with little regard for the facts,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew in a statement. “The new administration needs accurate information – not a whitewashed history of the last 12 years – if they are to rebuild the New York City public school system.”
The union has successfully gotten the city to reveal some education records that the Bloomberg administration had hoped to keep under wraps. A union FOIL request resulted in the release of emails related to the short-lived tenure of Cathie Black, the publishing executive whom Bloomberg named as chancellor in late 2010. The Bloomberg administration spent years and $160,000 in legal costs fighting the request before acquiescing under court order. A final set of the Cathie Black emails were released this month.
The union might well encounter less resistance with the new request. The request comes just days before Bloomberg is set to turn the education department over to de Blasio, who has pledged substantial changes but has not yet named a chancellor to detail and carry out his vision. While the Bloomberg administration will have to acknowledge the request under legal guidelines, it will be up to de Blasio’s administration to answer it.
Bloomberg will have to turn over some records that have been under wraps while he was mayor, such as his travel schedule, to the city archives at the end of his term, whether or not legal requests have been filed. Those records are ultimately expected to be available online.
The FOIL request isn’t the only business the union is getting in on the last workday before Christmas. The union also filed an amicus brief today supporting the state comptroller’s right to audit charter schools and their management organizations. Success Academy, a city-based charter school network, sued Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli earlier this year, saying that his efforts to audit charter schools overstepped his authority.