The city has requested more time to respond to a lawsuit that aims to prevent 19 charter schools from opening, a move that has charter school supporters and opponents reading the tea leaves as they wait to hear if Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration will reverse former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to open more charters inside existing school buildings.
A comment from Public Advocate Leticia James -- made on WNYC's Brian Lehrer show -- set off a social media kerfuffle when she spoke in a less aggressive tone about the legal challenge, of which she is a plantiff.
"I've agreed at this point in time to adjourn the lawsuit until such time as she examines each and every co-location," she said, referring to the Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
Some listeners took the remark to mean James had decided to back down but her spokesman, Brendan Brosh, said not so fast.
James only meant "the case will be heard at a date in the future,” he said.
What has changed, sort of, is that Fariña sought more time from the Law Department to review the cases. Department of Education spokesman Devon Puglia issued the following statement:
“We’ve committed to reviewing the proposals that were approved this fall to ensure that they are in best interests of all students and schools. It’s simply the responsible approach to take as we listen to communities across the city.”
The skirmish over new schools has raised alarms in the charter school community. Proponents said it would be unfair to suddenly pull the rug out from schools scheduled to open this coming fall.
Approximately 40 co-locations, involving both district schools and charters, were approved by the Panel for Educational Policy in October.
In recent weeks, the plaintiffs dropped their objections to co-locations by two of the charters: one by American Dream charter and another by the Children's Aid College Prep charter, both in the Bronx.
During the mayoral campaign, de Blasio said he wanted a moratorium on any new co-locations but it's not clear whether he would undo any approvals made before he took office.
The teachers union also filed a lawsuit last summer seeking to cancel the co-locations of 11 charter schools. These also were approved by the Panel for Educational Policy, earlier in 2013, and many of the schools would open this fall.
Last fall, the city's law department called the union's challenge "the world's most unnecessary lawsuit."
But that was before Bloomberg left office.