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Union warns that last-minute negotiations could put more schools at risk of takeover

Herbert Lehman High School in the Bronx shares its campus with other schools in the building.
Herbert Lehman High School in the Bronx shares its campus with other schools in the building.

As lawmakers near a state budget deal, last-minute negotiations could mean some schools would again be at risk of being taken over by an outside group or leader — weeks after being told they had improved enough to avoid that threat, according to the state’s teachers union.

The state announced in February that 70 schools would be removed from the “receivership” list at the end of this school year in recognition of their improved academic results. But now, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to advance budget language that would keep all 144 schools last year classified as “struggling” or “persistently struggling” on the list, according to an email from the union to lawmakers.

Some argue these schools were removed from the list even though they saw only marginal improvement, undermining a system designed to force big-picture changes at schools where the fewest students were graduating or passing state tests.

StudentsFirstNY, an advocacy group that has called for more school accountability, wrote a letter to the commissioner criticizing the shrinking receivership list in March.

“We believe this action violates the law, and if not immediately reversed we will explore all available remedies,” the letter reads.

Union leaders argue these schools’ results should be celebrated, and that the state is justified in taking them off the receivership list. The receivership program also allows schools to sidestep some union rules.

“NYSUT urges you to please stand strong against harmful and punitive proposals that will hurt students and educators in these schools,” the email reads.

Lawmakers are in the final stages of debating the budget, which must be passed by midnight tonight to meet the budget deadline. The measure was still being considered this morning, said Billy Easton, the executive director of the advocacy group Alliance for Quality Education.

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