Friday, August 13, 2010

Klein Reverses Course on Girls Prep and Emergency Powers

School Space Emergency? Not for Now

Last week, Education Department officials announced that Chancellor Joel I. Klein intended to invoke his little-known emergency powers to place Girls Preparatory Charter School inside Public School 188 on the Lower East Side, disregarding a ruling from the state's education commissioner.

But a spokeswoman for Mr. Klein said Friday that the city was reversing course and would search for another space for the charter school, pushing back the first day of school for the 125 Girls Prep students by as much as a month.

The chancellor's decision to use emergency powers provoked outrage from many parents and elected officials, including State Senator Daniel Squadron, who has been a reliable supporter of Mr. Klein's.

But education officials repeatedly defended the decision, saying that an official declaration would be written in several days. They said that none of the students enrolled in a special-education program, Public School 94, that also shares the space would have to attend classes in a different building.

But for now at least, officials are putting their call for an emergency on hold.

"After consulting with Girls Prep, P.S. 94, local elected officials, parents and advocates, we feel it is incumbent upon the department to exhaust all other options before issuing an emergency declaration," Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for the chancellor, said in a statement. "We still believe that P.S. 188 is an appropriate option as they have adequate space available and it would not result in a single special-education student being moved. But if we can identify alternative space for one year — whether private or public — we feel it would be the best outcome for all involved. So it is our hope that we will have this matter resolved for these students as soon as possible."

The battle over space for Girls Prep has gone on for almost a year. Officials from the school say they hope to find space within the next several weeks, ideally at another location on the Lower East Side. (Perhaps the recently vacated Catholic middle school is a good fit?)

"The threat by Advocates for Children to challenge an emergency declaration has created an unacceptable level of uncertainty for us, so we are being forced to find another option," said Cristina Garcia-Coleman, the acting executive director of Public Preparatory Network, which oversees the charter school. "We have already identified several potential locations."

The emergency power provision stems from the 2009 law that renewed the mayor's control over city schools.

Sheldon Silver, the Democratic leader of the State Assembly, last week called Mr. Klein's decision "blatant abuse" of the law. His vociferous reaction prompted some to worry privately that he would try to reopen the legislation over mayoral control.

Mr. Klein chimed in with his own statement this afternoon, apparently making clear that he was not quite backing down:

"Given the threats of litigation and continuing uncertainty, we are working with the Board of Girls Prep to find a stable solution for these young women. At the same time, we remain prepared to exercise our emergency powers should that become necessary."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sheldon Silver is the best and most loyal politician this city and state has ever had. He is a principled, fair, and passionate defender of the right to public education for all not the few. He is the one politician who has repeatedly stood up to the mayor and his accomplices. The football stadium, mayoral control the new legislation provides for parental input which Silver insisted upon. Shelly is the best pure and simple.