not so fast

Poised to lay off school aides, city is hit with a restraining order

A day before the Department of Education had planned to dismiss over 500 school aides, a judge has issued a temporary restraining order preventing the layoffs from going through.

State Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead ruled today that before the city laid off hundreds of “the most vulnerable employees,” the Court had to ensure that the layoffs did not violate the state’s constitution and the education law.

Officials from DC 37, the union that represents the school aides, argued in court yesterday that the city was laying off civil servants in order to replace them with less expensive temporary workers who are not given health benefits.

They also said that the layoffs would disproportionally affect schools that serve low-income students. According to union officials, the Mosaic Preparatory Academy (P.S. 375), where 90 percent of the students quality for free or reduced lunch, is set to lose all of its school aides. In contrast, P.S. 6, where roughly 6 percent of students are at the poverty line, is hiring 17 teacher aides. A breakdown of the school aide layoffs at each school was not made available.

According to city officials, savings from the layoffs would come to about $13 million.

“The loss of school aides at schools like Mosaic Preparatory Academy (P.S. 375) in East Harlem, which is allegedly a particularly overcrowded school, will have an immediate, irreparable impact upon the safety of New York City school children,” Edmead wrote in her decision.

The union said that the city was adding insult to injury by allowing parent associations to pay for school aides, a battle that parents fought and won this summer. D.C. 37’s lawyers claimed that allowing parent-paid aides gives preference to wealthier school districts while harming schools in poorer districts that are slated to lose more school aides and don’t have parent associations that can afford to pay their own.

“We believe that the lower court decision was in error, and we will be taking an immediate appeal,” said Daniel Gomez-Sanchez, a lawyer for the city. The Department of Education refused to comment.

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.