opening statement (updated)

As hearing begins, UFT and NAACP drop three schools from suit

A street fight preceded the courtroom fight today as supporters and opponents of a lawsuit to stop 22 school closures and 17 charter school co-locations held separate rallies before the suit’s first legal proceedings began.

About 50 supporters of the lawsuit gathered outside the building with signs that read “Separate and unequal” and “Thank you NAACP.” The suit’s opponents, mostly charter school advocates who have been agitating against the NAACP since shortly after the group filed the suit along with the city teachers union, had also called a rally to precede the hearing.

Geoff is on the scene at 60 Centre Street, the Manhattan State Supreme Court building where the hearing is taking place.

His first report is that lawyers for the UFT and NAACP started the day by removing three of the contested co-locations from the lawsuit. The charter schools involved are the same as those referenced (clumsily) in the press release — later retracted — that announced an agreement last week: Girls Preparatory Charter School, on the Lower East Side, and the two Promise Academy charter schools in Harlem.

The other two schools dropped from the lawsuit are run by the Harlem Children’s Zone, whose CEO, Geoffrey Canada, has been involved in talks to resolve the suit out of court.

One might think that a first agreement could augur more, but that’s not what city lawyers are arguing. They say that because the reason the three co-locations was removed from the lawsuit hasn’t been explained, there’s no evidence to suggest that amicable resolution is likely in the rest of the co-locations being contested.

UPDATE: Reached with news that Girls Prep had been dropped from the lawsuit this afternoon, the president of the Community Education Council for District 1, Lisa Donlan, said she was relieved.

“Everyone felt concerned that the large net that had been used had scooped up a co-location like ours that didn’t belong in it,” she said.

Donlan said the planned co-location between Girls Prep and East Side Community High School had been carefully negotiated within the community after the city’s bid for Girls Prep to share space with a different school was derailed by tensions last year, ultimately costing some Girls Prep students a month of classes. After the East Side Community High School home was named in the lawsuit alongside all other co-locations approved by the Panel for Educational Policy this spring, community members asked the UFT to revise, Donlan said.

“This is literally one that no one objected to,” she said. “This was a community-devised solution to a badly designed co-location from the year before.”

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.