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Queens Chronicle

Arbitrator rules for unions in school closing dispute

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Posted: Friday, June 29, 2012 3:31 pm | Updated: 2:28 am, Thu Oct 11, 2012.

Teachers unions scored a big victory against the Department of Education Friday afternoon. An independent arbitrator assigned to mediate a dispute between the UFT and the Council of Supervisors & Administrators against the DOE has ruled that the city's move to shut down low-performing schools and lay off half of their faculty and administration violated contracts between the city and the unions. The move may mean thousands of staff laid off at the end of the school year may again have jobs in September if they want them, and the City might lose out on almost $50 million in federal funding. 

In a statement, the UFT and CSA said the decision vindicated their belief that the mayor's school turnaround proposal is a failure. 

"Based on this decision, the current staff in these schools has the opportunity to remain there for the next school year, though those who have found new positions elsewhere are free to go to those new jobs if they choose," the statement read."This decision is focused on the narrow issue of whether or not the mayor’s 'new' schools are really new. The larger issue, however, is that the centerpiece of the DOE’s school improvement strategy — closing struggling schools — does not work. Parents, students and teachers need the DOE to come up with strategies to fix struggling schools  rather than giving up on them."

Mayor Mike Bloomberg blasted the decision and vowed to appeal. 

“Today’s decision is an injustice to our children that – if allowed to stand – will hurt thousands of students and compromise their futures. The ruling puts the career interests of adults ahead of the educational needs of children, and it contradicts the State Department of Education’s decision authorizing our plan to move forward," he said. "We believe that all New York City public school students deserve the highest quality education, and these 24 schools were failing to provide it. We put in place a plan to close the schools and re-open them in September with new staff. The plan was permitted by state law and is consistent with existing union contracts – but we now risk losing the opportunity to hire effective faculty eager to be a part of the new school community. We will appeal the decision because we will not give up on the students at these 24 schools.”

The DOE referred to the mayor's statement. 

The city closed seven high school in Queens at the end of the school year, and plans to reopen them with new names and new staff in the fall. 

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