News about arguments in our class size lawsuit & tomorrow’s radio show

Jan. 14, 2020

1.Yesterday, the class size lawsuit against the city and the state that we filed more than a year ago, along with nine NYC parents from every borough and the Alliance for Quality Education, was heard in the Appellate court in Albany. Our pro bono attorney, Wendy Lecker of the Education Law Center, did a fabulous job, those of us in the courtroom agreed, which included two of the parent plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Litza Stark of Queens and Johanna Garcia of Manhattan, along with Johanna’s daughter Hailey, back from her first semester in college. NY Senator Robert Jackson, who spearheaded the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, was also there to support us, as well as retired teacher Norm Scott.  A photo of all of us after the arguments were heard is on our blog, taken by Norm outside the courtroom in Albany.

A panel of five judges listened intently as Wendy related how the NYC Department of Education had violated the state Contracts for Excellence law passed in 2007, which specifically mandates that the city lower average class sizes in all grades over five years – but instead, class sizes had sharply increased so that they are now far larger than they were when the law was first passed. In response, the attorneys for the city and state tried to argue that since the five years outlined in the original law had lapsed, there was no longer any requirement for the DOE to lower class size.

Yet as Wendy pointed out, the state legislature renews and reauthorizes the C4E law every year, including its class size mandate, with no specific end point for when the city’s obligations would cease; thus there is indeed a continuing legal requirement on the part of the DOE.

The attorneys for the city and state also claimed that the court had no jurisdiction over this matter, but that the Commissioner of Education had the sole power to determine whether the city had adequately complied with the law. Yet as Wendy counter-argued, the court indeed has the authority to decide whether the Commissioner has accurately interpreted the language of the statute, and the court’s authority to do so as regards this specific law was re-confirmed by the Appellate court in 2011. By essentially nullifying the city’s class size obligation under the law, she said, the Commissioner had essentially usurped the legislature’s role.

Though no one can predict how the court will rule, those of us in the room felt that Wendy’s arguments were far stronger than those of the city or state attorneys, who did not even try to dispute the facts in the case: that class sizes had increased sharply since 2007, and this had unfairly deprived NYC students of an quality education.

In any event, the Appellate Court will likely not issue any decision until this summer at least, and we are not content to sit back and wait for this to occur. Instead, we are urging the Mayor and the Council to put a down payment on the quality of our children’s education by allocating $100 million for class size reduction, starting next year, first in the early grades and in struggling schools. More on how you can help with this soon.

2. Also yesterday, the Board of Regents approved the final regulations for our NY state student privacy law, originally passed in 2014. We have won the battle to ensure that as the law proscribes, NO school vendors can sell personal student data.

Tomorrow on our WBAI radio show, “Talk out of School”, which airs every Wed. at 10 AM, we will interview Cassie Creswell, a privacy advocate in Chicago and Scott Drury, an attorney, about their federal class action lawsuit against the College Board for its continued practice of selling student data. The College Board makes an estimated $100 million per year from this practice, despite the fact that it violates the law in more than half of all states, including Illinois and NY. Then we will talk to Sen. Robert Jackson , about what we should expect from the NY Legislature this year in terms of education funding and accountability for charter schools.

You can also download the show afterwards here; or subscribe to it as a podcast on iTunes, Spotify or Google Play.

Thanks as always for your support,

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011

Categories Newsletters, Updates | Tags: | Posted on January 15, 2020

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