Contacts

:
Sam Pirozzolo, (917) 533-3437, sam@nycparentsunion.org
Mona Davids, (646) 872-7149, mona@nycparentsunion.org

Twitter:
@NYCParentsUnion


New York City Students File Lawsuit Demanding A Sound Basic
Education For All New York State School Children

It Is Time To Put Our Children's Interests First

Today, eleven students – all children of members of the New York City Parents Union --
filed a lawsuit against the State of New York, the New York State Board of Regents, the
New York State Education Department, the City of New York and the New York City
Department of Education to compel these institutions to protect our children’s rights and
to fulfill their Constitutional mandate to offer all children the opportunity to receive a
sound basic education.

This lawsuit, Davids vs. State of New York, et al., brought by students, will seek to
declare the present New York State Education Law, Section 3020, and its
implementation as unconstitutional:

 The need for "due process rights" is recognized and clear, but this need does not
automatically override a child’s constitutional right to a sound basic education
delivered by our public education system. Employment as an educator in New
York State is an earned privilege, and cannot simply be a life-long right for
incompetent teachers.

 The current procedures associated with due process protections are onerous and
create additional and disparate costs for public education systems and students,
and urban systems, in particular, where higher percentages of lower-income and
non-white populations depend upon public education.

 A teacher’s performance that is below the minimum standard guaranteed by the
New York State Constitution should not be able to retain employment during a
downsizing period solely based upon their seniority within the system. Teacher
performance should always remain part of the process. Teacher performance
should always remain part of the process during these unfortunate periods of
time.

This is not a lawsuit that seeks to attack teachers or unions. In fact, the New York City
Parents Union recognizes that this country was built on the backs of hard-working and
dedicated union laborers who deserve due process rights. What we are confident will
be proven, however, is the undisputable fact that laws and contracts are sometimes
written with unintended outcomes, consequences and victims and, therefore, must be
changed. Unfortunately, in this case, the unintended victims have been generations of
defenseless school children – children who have absolutely no voice in the creation of
educational law or policies.

As parents, we seek a system that rewards and retains excellent teachers while
providing appropriate resources for new or struggling teachers. We can no
longer stand idly by, however, and allow this system to protect incompetent
teachers who have given up on our children or who are unable to perform at the
necessary level to help our children.

Over a 10-year period, from 1997 to 2007, the New York City public school system had
approximately 75,000 active teachers each year. Of these, only 12 teachers, in any
given year, were dismissed due to poor performance during that same period of time.

In reality, it can take up to 830 days and cost taxpayers some $330,000 to replace a
single poorly performing teacher. Principals must spend hours filling out paperwork and
attending hearings -- an ineffective use of their time. To heap injury upon injury, many
teachers who have received multiple “unsatisfactory” ratings, who have missed entire
weeks of work, or who may have physically abused students are allowed to remain in
the classroom over the objections of their school administrations and parents.

There is little evidence that this corrosive culture has changed. It has been said that
New York City teachers are more likely to die on the job than be replaced because of
poor performance.

The status quo frightens parents across New York City. Evidence will show that the
adverse impact of bad laws is not experienced equally by all children -- it is our state's
poorest students, many of our state’s neediest students, and those whose racial profile
is of African or Hispanic descent who continue to suffer more than their counterparts.
Low-income and minority students are assigned less effective teachers. Disadvantaged
students receive less effective teaching, on average, compared with other students.
Overall, students who need a sound basic education the most are the least likely to get
a competent and appropriate teacher to deliver it. As has been stated, this reality is a
violation of the equal protection philosophy that governs our Constitutional democracy.

The adverse impacts set forth here are compounded by bad state laws that mandate a
"quality-blind" approach to downsizing initiatives. If layoffs are considered necessary
within a jurisdiction, issues of job performance and a teacher's ability to empower our
children can no longer be ignored. Seniority without rigorous and fair evaluation
procedures can no longer be used as a super shield to protect low-performing teachers.

At present, there is no effective system that rewards excellence and minimizes failure.
Instead, there is a complex system of "bad laws" that perpetuate mediocrity or, worse,
inferiority. This lawsuit seeks to challenge and end the power and inequity of "bad
laws" and promote "good laws" – good education policies -- that truly benefit our
children and our good teachers.

As parents, we seek what is already enshrined within our New York State Constitution:
a system that provides every child with a sound basic education – which means, in
reality, an education system dependent upon high-quality teaching skills. These skills
enhance the capabilities of our children, empowering them to be better civic and
economic contributors to our democratic society. The right to a high-quality
education means that children are entitled to schools that provide the essential
components of academic achievement -- the most important of which are
personnel appropriately trained to effectively teach ever-evolving curricula such
as reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies.

Unfortunately, political players within New York State have been passive. They have
too often chosen to hear and feel the influence of powerful interests rather than stand
with public school parents in fighting bad laws and protecting high-quality education.

How does it all add up? The sum of these parts is harm to public school children
that violates the letter and intent of the New York State Constitution. Parents
have had enough and our lawsuit will ensure that we are heard. Through efforts
of many, such as the New York City Parents Union, parents have changed laws
before and we can do it again.

Sam Pirozzolo, a parent plaintiff, President of Community Education Council 31 and
Vice President of the New York City Parents Union, said:

“As President of Community Education Council 31 and as an active member of the
NYC Parents Union, I have heard from parents across the city that some teachers
believe that our children can’t be taught and will end up in prison. I have been told of
teachers who were happy their school was being closed and that they were being
placed in the Absent Teacher Reserve, where they get paid, but no longer have to
prepare lesson plans, tests, check homework. They don’t have to teach. These are the
teachers that parents want removed from the system. Yet there has been excuse after
excuse and delay after delay for the implementation of any meaningful teacher
evaluation system. Enough is enough.”

Kendra Oke, a parent plaintiff, Special Needs Advocate, former Parent-Teacher
Association President & School Leadership Team member, former School Safety
Committee member and former Shared-Space Committee member said:

“As a mother of a non-verbal, student with special needs, I am outraged at the quality of
the special education teachers serving our students with the highest needs. Our
students with special needs deserve the services and supports given to them under the
law. Poor-performing special needs teachers and the Department of Education are
notorious for denying our children the services they need and worse, the teachers lie at
impartial hearings to cover up their incompetence. Our students with special needs
deserve high-quality teachers who care about them and strive to provide them with all
their mandated services. We also need special education teachers to stand up for
students and protect them from verbal and physical abuse from other teachers and
paraprofessionals.”


Mona Davids, a parent plaintiff and President of the New York City Parents Union, said:

“As a Black parent, I am sick and tired of being sick and tired! In New York City, the
most segregated school system in the country, more than 80% of New York City
students (mostly Black and Latino), over 80%, do not read, write and do math at grade
level! Across New York State, about 70% of students do not read, write and do math at
grade level. This is a crisis of epic proportions. New York City schools in mostly Black
and Latino neighborhoods are staffed with the highest concentration of Unsatisfactory-
Rated teachers. Yet, every attempt to hold teachers accountable for educating our
children is blocked. Bad laws need to go. It is time to reform the law and put our
children’s interests. Every child must receive equal access to a high-quality education.”


Parent leaders from throughout the country support the New York City parent
plaintiffs seeking a high-quality education for all children.

Matt Prewitt, President, Texas Parents Union:
"We are excited to hear that New York City Parents Union wants to bring common
sense education reform to New York. Parents are the primary stakeholders in public
education and, as such, we need to make sure they have the power to act on behalf of
their children's best interests."


Hamlet Garcia, President, Pennsylvania Parents Union:
“It is unconstitutional to force parents to bring their children to an underperforming
school. Every child deserves a great education to prepare them to compete in a global
economy. A high quality education creates opportunities for progress and prosperity
not only for students but also for our country.”


Kelly Bolar-Williams, President, Ohio Parents Union:
“Sixty years later… we’re still crying for our children, still searching for better
opportunities, and still fighting against racial inequality. Who would ever dream that in
the 21st century, America would still be searching for quality education for all children. I
support laws that protect the education and rights of our children – the future leaders. I
stand with New York City parents who seek to undo the unjust laws that deny New York
State’s children of a sound basic education that is their Constitutional right.”


Rhonda Gatch, Co-founder, Moms for School Choice:
“As moms, our primary concern is to secure the best education possible for our children.
We expect schools to hire and retain the best teachers to guide students on a path to
success in future careers and to prepare them to be knowledgeable, productive citizens.
These crucial goals will only be fulfilled when principals are free to make decisions on
performance in a timely manner, just as leadership in other fields are free to act when
necessary. We support prioritizing the needs of kids over permanent job positions for
adults who may be better suited for other career paths.”


Gwen Samuel, President, Connecticut Parents Union and the National Parents
Union:
“It is time for us as public school parents to focus on what we need to do to ensure our
kids are accessing safe and high quality schools no matter the zip-code. I support the
New York City Parents Union’s, independent, parent-led lawsuit similar to Vegara vs.
California. If we don't step up to the plate to fight for our own families and our own
communities, then the status quo and elitist-like folk will continue to portray us like
unintelligent, incapable parents lacking the ability to advocate for our children.”
About the New York City Parents Union (NYCPU)

Founded in 2011, the NYCPU, is the leading independent voice of New York City public
school students and their parents. The NYCPU is a volunteer, public school parent-led
organization. We are of the parents, by the parents and for the parents. We are not
controlled or managed by special interests, institutions or foundations. Our membership
is free and open to all parents.
Our mission is to ensure every child receives equal access to a high-quality public
education.
We fulfill our mission through empowering parents, educating parents of their and their
children’s rights, representing parents in meetings with teachers and district officials,
supporting school choice, advocacy, legislation and lawsuits.
We believe only parents have the right to decide which type of school best fits the
educational needs of their child -– public, charter, magnet, specialized, parochial or
private.