Defending public oversight of mayoral control of public schools
This lawsuit, filed on March 24, 2009, maintains that the New York City Department of Education violated state education law by deciding to close three neighborhood schools without approval from Community Education Councils, local bodies created by the State Legislature to ensure that parents and the public retain some oversight over education under the mayoral control system. State education law requires the Department of Education (DOE) to get the approval of the community through its local CEC when it wants to make certain changes, including zoning changes that affect neighborhood schools. But the DOE unilaterally announced plans to close PS 194 and PS 241 in Harlem and PS 150 in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville area of Brooklyn, leaving those zones empty of neighborhood schools. By closing down the sole neighborhood school and not providing an alternative neighborhood school, the DOE is in effect eliminating district zoning lines. To do that legally, it must obtain the approval of the local education council.
The plaintiffs filed the suit on at State Supreme Court in Manhattan. The New York Civil Liberties Union is co-counsel on the case and represents plaintiffs Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum and Jennifer Freeman, a parent and the secretary of District 3's CEC, which includes PS 241. Plaintiffs ask in the lawsuit that the court rule that the DOE's policy in these cases is a violation of state education law, order the DOE to stop it and reserve such zone alterations to Community Education Councils. On April 24, 2009, the DOE announced that it would keep open the three schools at issue in this lawsuit. The case remains open.
State Supreme Court, New York County, Index No. 104076-2009 (direct).