Quietly last Thursday, August 7, NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a notice of motion for consolidation of two lawsuits challenging teacher tenure citing the involvement of “identical substantive issues.”
One, Davids v State of New York was commenced by the NYC Parents Union and their children on July 3 in Richmond County (Staten Island). Mymoena Davids, the daughter of NYC Parents Union leader Mona Davids, is the lead plaintiff. A second lawsuit, Wright v State of New York spearheaded by the Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ) was filed July 28 in Albany County. Filing on behalf of the defendants: the State of New York, the NYS Board of Regents and the NYS Department of Education, AG Schneiderman proposes that the cases be consolidated and moved to the Court on Staten Island. Schneiderman also proposes that the consolidated action go forward as Davids v State of New York with the PEJ plaintiffs folded in after Davids. In reaction to the NYCPU action, the UFT filed for intervener status on July 21, 2014.
Just last week, the NYC Parents Union released a statement welcoming David Boies as the new chairman of the Board of PEJ. The statement read in part, “We look forward to working with Mr. Boies and the PEJ plaintiffs as we move forward together in our attempt to improve the quality of education afforded all of our children here in New York.”
As reported in Education Week, “the NY Parents Union lawsuit is based in part on the successful education equality lawsuit, Vergara vs. California case, in which a state superior court judge ruled that teacher protections in the Golden state unfairly saddled low-income and minority students with poorly performing teachers.” The lawsuit contends that the teacher tenure process (with its seniority-based layoffs) deprives a large number of children in New York of their constitutional rights to a sound, basic education. Students Matter, the sponsor of Vergara v. California, announced on August 4 that it would support the plaintiffs in Davids v. New York, et al, a lawsuit filed in Staten Island Supreme Court on July 3rd.
The Education Week article had cautioned that the two suits could be combined at some point in time. The move by AG Schneiderman possibly comes as a blow to the Partnership for Educational Justice, a group headed by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown. Ms. Brown has been the very public face and a lightning rod in the effort to challenge the teacher tenure process in New York. In the time since the Parents Union filed their lawsuit, most of the attention has focused on Campbell Brown. Brown has been the focus of savage and misogynistic attacks on her looks, depth of knowledge and political party affiliation. The hashtag #Questions4Campbell is used to attack her relentlessly.
Such attacks are unlikely to be unleashed on Ms. Davids, an unemployed single mother, and the NYC Parents Union because they have been past allies of the UFT regarding parent leadership, supporting the community schools initiative, pushing charter schools to enroll more special ed students, and keeping teacher evaluations private. Davids and her group have split from the UFT on teacher tenure because “the UFT gummed up the teacher evaluation process to protect ineffective teachers and they do nothing to expel molesters.” Davids lamented that “the best interests of teachers don’t necessarily reflect the best interests of children.”
The Attorney General’s motion is returnable September 3, 2014. The UFT’s motion to intervene is also scheduled for heard that day.
The Notice of Motion For Consolidation follows below:
Michael Benjamin is a columnist and blogger as well as a former state legislator who represented the 79 AD, 2003-2010.