The city’s powerful teachers union returned to court Friday to press its case that New York’s new class-size law should prevent two charter schools from sharing space in public school buildings.
The legal drama is the latest in the bitter and long-running feud between the United Federation of Teachers and Success Academy, the city’s largest charter school network headed by Eva Moskowitz, one of the union’s chief critics.
In its lawsuit, the UFT cited the class-size law to try to invalidate the co-location of two Success Academy charter schools at public school buildings in Queens and Brooklyn.
“We are confident that this judge will do the right thing, which is to allow these schools to open so the families who have chosen them can send their children to a school of their choice,” said Ann Powell, the top spokeswoman for Success Academy.
The 52-page legal challenge contends that the Department of Education failed to consider the impact of the state’s new law capping class sizes when approving the charters — and that the regulations will require more space in DOE schools, meaning the charters would not fit.
Charter schools are legally allowed to occupy vacant space in Department of Education buildings and have done so for years.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lyle Frank told the courtroom that he planned to rule quickly in the case, but did not provide more detail as to when he would issue his decision, several people in attendance said after the hearing wrapped up.
The law, which limits the number of students in classes from kindergarten to 12th grade, can sidestep regulations due to lack of space, “over-enrolled” programs, a shortage of licensed teachers and schools in “severe economic distress.”
The union has been previously accused of hypocrisy in charter school wars when University Prep Middle School — a charter co-founded by Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers and former head of its local affiliate UFT — was granted more space in a city building in April.
All told, the UFT and anti-charter school allies have filed more than a dozen lawsuits against Success over the past decade. None have been successful.
“The Department of Education’s failure to comply with the law is a grave disservice to the public,” said Laura Barbieri, with the pro-UFT group Advocates for Justice.