FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUGUST 25, 2015
Contact: Melody Meyer (Partnership for Educational Justice): 646-770-7061 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW YORK PARENTS URGE COURT TO ADVANCE CASE FOR EDUCATIONAL JUSTICE AND ALLOW CRUCIAL INFORMATION ON TEACHER QUALITY TO COME TO LIGHT
Wright v. New York plaintiffs declare on courthouse steps, “When the promise to educate our children is delayed, it’s denied.”
Staten Island, NY – Today, immediately prior to oral arguments on the Wright v. New York defendants’ renewed Motion to Dismiss and request for a stay of discovery, plaintiff families and supporters stood together on the steps of the Richmond County Supreme Court to make their case that any delays to the lawsuit will hurt New York students and keep critical information about teacher quality and employment policies obscured from parents and taxpayers.
Keoni Wright, a father from Brooklyn and lead plaintiff in Wright v. New York, said, “In March, we won a major victory for our children when Justice Minardo ruled that our case for educational justice should move forward. Justice Minardo’s words – ‘we will not close the courthouse door to parents and children with viable constitutional rights’ – rang loud and clear to New York parents who trust teachers every day to provide our children with the education they are promised. This latest attempt to delay our case shows that the defendants will look for any excuse to keep information on teacher quality from parents. We have waited long enough. Education is the most important thing for our children and all children. When the promise to educate our children is delayed, it is denied. We need these laws to be fixed so children get the education they deserve – we won’t be delayed.”
Nina Doster, a mother from Queens and plaintiff in Wright v. New York, said, “I have experienced firsthand with my own children that ineffective teachers remain in classrooms at the expense of students’ educations. Today we are here to say that it’s time for solutions, not delays. The defendants can keep trying to stall but I want them to know that we are committed to this fight, and our children deserve nothing less. We are here to stand up for every child and every parent in New York that has suffered because an ineffective or harmful teacher was allowed to continue teaching. The judge already ruled that we should have our day in court. We deserve to have that chance to overturn these broken policies.”
Angeles Barragan, madre de Bronx y demandante en Wright v. New York, dijo, “Llegué a EE. UU. desde México para tener la seguridad de que mis hijos fueran a la escuela y recibieran la educación que se merecían. En lugar de ello, el gobierno y los sindicatos están intentando callar nuestros pedidos de respuestas y soluciones. Me siento decepcionada de que las leyes de educación apoyen a maestros que no incentivan a nuestros niños y no aceptaré que mi hija no pueda progresar en la escuela. Estamos acudiendo a los tribunales en busca de soluciones y las demoras no impedirán que luchemos por darles a nuestros niños la educación que se merecen.”
[Translation of paragraph above: Angeles Barragan, mother from the Bronx and plaintiff in Wright v. New York, said, “I came to the U.S. from Mexico to make sure my children could go to school and get the education they deserved. Instead, the government and unions are trying to shutdown our requests for answers and solutions. I am frustrated that education laws support teachers who don’t encourage our children and I will not accept that my daughter can’t thrive at school. We are turning to the courts for solutions and no delay will keep us from fighting to give our children the education they deserve.”]
In March, the defendants’ previous Motions to Dismiss were denied by Justice Philip Minardo, the same judge who is hearing today’s arguments. Earlier this year when he ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor, Justice Minardo wrote, “we will not close the courthouse door to parents and children with viable constitutional rights.” This decision paved the way for the plaintiffs to have their day in court and to gain access to crucial information from the defendants about the employment policies that protect ineffective teachers at the expense of students.
The plaintiffs argued that the hearing today is just another attempt to dismiss the case for educational justice and to delay uncovering important evidence. New York parents and students urge the court to deny these new motions on the grounds that recent minor amendments to the state education law do not remedy the current constitutional harm inflicted on children. The plaintiffs also argued that pausing Wright v. New York with a “stay of discovery” would allow the defendants to continue obscuring important information and testimony about the protections afforded to ineffective teachers and the impact these statutes have on New York’s students. A delay to the case would also prolong the State’s failure to uphold its constitutional promise to provide New York children the education they deserve.
Nine families from across the state filed suit last summer against the State of New York and others, claiming that the teacher tenure and dismissal laws deprive New York children of their right to a sound basic education as guaranteed under the New York State Constitution.
Tenicka Boyd, StudentsFirstNY’s Director of Organizing, said, “Having a great teacher is a life-changer for students, but unfortunately there are policies in place that prevent children from having access to the most effective teachers. In New York, if you’re a low-performing teacher, it’s easy to get a job for life and hard to remove you from the classroom, when it should be the opposite. These brave parent plaintiffs and the Partnership for Educational Justice are fighting for the rights of all students and we’re proud to stand with them.”
ABOUT PARTNERSHIP FOR EDUCATIONAL JUSTICE
Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ) is a team of parent leaders, education advocates, and legal experts dedicated to reclaiming the promise of public education for all students. PEJ helps students, families, and communities advocate for better public schools through coalition-building and legal action. Specifically, PEJ works with parents and students to challenge antiquated laws that prevent public schools from providing all students with a good education. Our targeted litigation strategy is supported by a coordinated communications campaign at the local, state, and national levels that increases pressure on legislators and other decision-makers to improve our education system for the benefit of all children.
Founded by Campbell Brown, an award-winning journalist and writer, Partnership for Educational Justice is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. PEJ is grateful to have the support and counsel of various attorneys at Kirkland & Ellis, including Jay Lefkowitz. These talented and mission-driven individuals are donating their services pro bono to ensure all students in New York have access to the teachers they deserve.