breaking (updated)

Appeals court judges unanimously vote to keep schools open

For the second time, the city’s attempt to close 19 schools has been foiled by the courts.

Five appellate court judges unanimously upheld a lower court ruling today that voided the city’s attempt to shut down the schools. The ruling means that the city will have to re-start the lengthy and arduous process to shutter the schools next year, when the city had hoped to begin closing them.

In March, a state Supreme Court judge ruled that the city did not follow the proper school closure process laid out in state education law. State law requires that the city prepare “educational impact statements,” or EIS’s, that analyze the effect that closing a school will have on the students and surrounding community, as well as hold a series of public hearings with local parent boards.

In their decision (available in full below the jump), the appellate court justices unanimously agreed, saying the city did not follow the legal requirements for a hearing, nor did the city prepare detailed enough impact statements.

“Plainly, the Legislature contemplated that the school community would receive more information than this from the EIS,” the judges’ decision says.

“We are profoundly disappointed by the court’s decision, and are exploring our appellate options,” a lawyer for the city, Michael Cardozo, said in a statement.

UPDATE: Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said today that he was disappointed with the decision but would not challenge it. “The court has ruled that we didn’t meet the requirements of the new law, and we will follow the court’s decision and make sure that we meet those requirements in the future,” he said.

But nothing in the court’s decision disputed the city’s power to close schools it deems as failing so long as it follows the proper process, and Klein indicated that the city would relaunch the process next year.

“We are proceeding with plans to open new schools in the fall,” Klein said. “And we will continue to work, in accordance with the law, to close schools that are failing our students and replace them with small schools, which have been proven to be more effective.”

The city had argued that it “substantially complied” with the law. In May, city lawyers told the panel of appellate judges that even if the Department of Education did not closely follow the legal requirements for releasing information and holding public hearings, the effect was negligible since parents and community members could access the information on their own.

But the judges flatly rejected that argument. “Contrary to respondents’ contention, the statutory violations are not ‘so insignificant as to be totally inconsequential,'” the ruling says.

City teachers union President Michael Mulgrew, who brought the lawsuit against the city, applauded the ruling. “No one is above the law, and every court that has looked at this issue has ruled decisively that the Department of Education violated the law when it tried to close these schools,” Mulgrew said.

Some of the schools may phase out their incoming grade in the fall anyway because of low enrollment after the city discouraged parents from sending their students there.

The full appellate court decision is below:

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.