bad roommates

In NAACP lawsuit, settlement details emerge then quickly retract

An optimistic press release that was later retracted is the latest sign that discussions to settle a lawsuit over charter school co-locations are intensifying in advance of the suit’s first day in court.

On Friday, the NAACP announced an agreement with the Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott to remove three schools from its lawsuit against the Department of Education. The announcement did not explain the changes, but indicated that the same solution could potentially be applied to each of the 19 charter schools listed in the suit.

“Our conversations with the Department of Education are beginning to bear fruit,” NAACP CEO Ben Jealous said in a statement from the press release. “Resolution on these three schools gives us hope. It allows us to focus on reaching the same agreement with regard to other schools.”

But education department officials said they were caught off guard by the press release, which was later retracted. They immediately called charter school founders and principals to deny that a deal had been struck.

In an email sent to the city’s charter school network on Sunday, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, whom Jealous credited for the deal, said he was “outraged that the NAACP issued a false statement about an agreement that does not exist.”

“We have made no agreements to make any modifications or changes at any of the schools named in the lawsuit,” Walcott wrote. “The press release issued by the NAACP and UFT was issued without my knowledge or consent.”

On Monday, Chris Fleming, a NAACP spokesman, confirmed the release was issued prematurely. A spokesman for the teachers union confirmed the release was retracted, but declined to comment further. A Department of Education spokesman declined to comment other than what Walcott wrote in his email.

Despite the retractions and denials, the release shines a light on the possible solutions that the plaintiffs will pursue and further indicates that both sides are looking for an out-of-court settlement. They have been steadily working towards a resolution ever since the Department of Education began revising space-sharing plans for buildings that would house charter and district schools together next year.

Union officials have said they welcome the revisions, which came in response to legal challenges over the past several months.

Public statements surrounding settlement talks have focused on 19 co-locations proposals. The suit also challenges the city’s plan to phase out 22 low-performing schools starting next fall.

A hearing is scheduled tomorrow afternoon in the Manhattan State Supreme Court, when a judge will hear arguments over a request to temporarily halt all closures and renovations planned for co-located schools.

The names of the three school buildings listed in the press release aren’t entirely accurate, either. The first school – “M.S. 160” – doesn’t exist, and was most likely a typo. The second school – “M.S. 188” – is more commonly known as P.S. 188 on Houston Street, where Girls Preparatory Charter School was supposed to be co-located last year. This year’s proposal would co-locate Girls Prep in a building on 12th Street.

The third school listed on the release was “St. Thomas Choir School Academy”, but charter school officials clarified that it referred to Choir Academy of Harlem. That school building includes the co-location of a second Promise Academy Charter School, which is part of Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children Zone network.

Canada is acting as a broker in the settlement talks, according to a spokesman for HCZ.

The efforts are also an indication of shifting interests for the national NAACP, which has been widely criticized for backing the lawsuit. On Monday, a plaintiff said the NAACP New York state chapter has been pressured by the national office in recent weeks and the rush to issue Friday’s announcement might have come in part in response to the pressure.

The original press release is pasted in its entirety below.



(New York, NY) The NAACP, the United Federation of Teachers and their co-petitioners announced today that, given proposed changes in student access, learning environment and facilities, three of the schools named in the co-location/closing schools litigation will be dropped from the ongoing lawsuit.

After intense deliberations, the plaintiffs and defendants have agreed to remove M.S. 160, M.S. 188 and the St. Thomas Choir School Academy from the current lawsuit.  At each of these schools, necessary arrangements have been made to repair, to reorganize and to redistribute the necessary resources for quality education in the institution.

“Our conversations with the Department of Education are beginning to bear fruit. Chancellor Walcott is showing real leadership in bringing his team to the table to work with us in ensuring this matter is resolved so that all children can be treated fairly, and have access to quality education at their school of choice,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “Resolution on these three schools gives us hope. It allows us to focus on reaching the same agreement with regard to other schools.”

“The NAACP remains committed to quality education for the more than 1.1 million children in New York City,” added New York State Conference President Hazel N. Dukes.  “We look forward to continuing our work with Chancellor Walcott, UFT, and the parents of these children to ensure all children in the schools covered by this lawsuit will receive fair treatment and a quality education at their school of choice this fall.”

“Thanks to changes the DOE has agreed to make in these particular cases, we have decided to remove three schools from the lawsuit,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

The proposed stipulation, which was sent to the DOE this afternoon, covers only the three schools specifically mentioned. A court hearing is set for Tuesday, June 21st in Manhattan Supreme Court in the continuing lawsuit.

Below is Chancellor Walcott’s email to the city’s charter school officials:

Dear Colleagues,

As many of you are aware, on Friday afternoon the NAACP and the UFT issued a press release announcing that an agreement had been reached to remove three schools from their lawsuit. While the NAACP and UFT later retracted the press release, I want to make the following points to you, our charter management organization leaders, directly and unequivocally:

  • We have made no agreements to make any modifications or changes at any of the schools named in the lawsuit; and,
  • The press release issued by the NAACP and UFT was issued without my knowledge or consent.

Our co-location plans treat children equitably no matter what type of school they attend—traditional or charter. We will vigorously defend the City and your many thousand families against this baseless lawsuit, and are resolved to stand firm with our charter partners. I am outraged that the NAACP issued a false statement about an agreement that does not exist.

Thank you for everything you do. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.


Dennis M. Walcott

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.