PA James Wins Another Round With DOE In Battle Over Transparency

screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-1-40-21-pm

Public Advocate Letitia James yesterday hailed the State Supreme Court Appellate Division’s unanimous ruling in in favor of her 2015 lawsuit seeking to make the Department of Education (DOE) School Leadership Team (SLT) meetings open to the public.

Public Advocate Letitia James
Public Advocate Letitia James

“Today’s ruling is a victory for parents, students, educators and all of us who believe in transparency and accountability at the Department of Education,” said James. “After years of having their voices drowned out in the schools system, parents are being heard again. Important decisions about our schools must be made in sunlight with input from parents and teachers.”

The court battle stems from when the state granted mayoral control of the city schools they put in a stipulation that every city public school is required to have a school leadership team (SLT), which includes the principal, parent association president, teachers union representative, and parent and staff members.

These teams create roadmaps for the school’s annual goals, which are required to be reflected in the school budget. The teams are also consulted for new hires and new policies. Since the establishment of mayoral control, School Leadership Team (SLT) meetings have been closed to the public, and James’ suit, joined with the education advocacy organization, Class Size Matters, sought to open these meetings up to the public.

“The law is crystal clear that School Leadership Teams are public bodies, with an important governmental role to play. Parents and the public have a crucial stake in SLT decisions, when it comes to class size, the use of technology, or any other school-based policies,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters. “Both the Supreme Court and now the Appellate Court have ruled that these meetings must be open to the community at large. Any attempt by the DOE or principals to ignore this decision, subvert it or appeal to a higher court would be unwise, would further delay the public interest and would waste precious taxpayer funds that are far better used in improving our schools.”

But the de Blasio Administration responded to the ruling with a hint it may file an appeal based in part on laws governing public meetings where issues including personnel and student disciplinary matters are discussed in executive session.

“The state legislature never intended to mandate that SLT meetings be open to the general public,” said NYC Law Department Spokesperson Nick Paolucci. “We are considering our options.”

More from Around New York