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Arbitrator Halts Bloomberg's Plans to Fire Teachers at Struggling Schools

By Jill Colvin | June 29, 2012 8:58pm
An arbitrator has halted the city's plan to remove teachers at 24
An arbitrator has halted the city's plan to remove teachers at 24 "turnaround schools."
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Flickr/James F Clay

NEW YORK CITY — The city must immediately halt plans to fire teachers at 24 schools it plans to close — then immediately reopen — this fall, an arbitrator ruled Friday.

The Bloomberg administration had tried to circumvent union rules protecting teachers' jobs by invoking a special federal "turnaround" model that allows them to fire up to half of teachers by closing schools and reopening them with new names in the fall. 

But the arbitrator ruled Friday that the city's plan violated the United Federation of Teachers' contract and ordered that all teachers be allowed to keep their jobs. 

The UFT — which had charged that the school closings were nothing but a "sham" — celebrated the arbitrator's ruling.

"An independent arbitrator has found that, for purposes of our contracts, the 'new' schools that the Department of Education claims it is creating this way are in reality not new schools," the UFT said in a statement Friday.

"As such, the DOE’s attempts to remove half the personnel in these schools are a violation of the school district’s contracts with the unions."

The city's plan to fire teachers and reboot the struggling schools would have made the schools eligible for $50 million in federal School Improvement Grants, but now it is unclear whether the 24 schools will still qualify.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott slammed the ruling 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," they said.

"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."