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Teacher's Union Prepares Fight Against Expected Overhauls Of 26 Public Schools

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TWC News: Teacher's Union Prepares Fight Against Expected Overhauls Of 26 Public Schools
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The Panel for Educational Policy is expected to vote Thursday night on whether the city can use a federal strategy called "turnaround" to shut down and then improve 26 failing public schools in four boroughs. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Union rules keep the city from removing teachers from schools, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg found a work-around this year. If a school is closed and replaced with a new school, with a different name, teachers have to reapply for their jobs.

The Panel for Educational Policy votes Thursday evening on closing 26 schools, which would cost about 3,000 teachers their positions as of June. The city expects the replacement schools to hire back only about half of them.

"Is it the mayor paying retribution because of all the fighting we've done publicly against his policies? Is he upset that the public believes that what he's done in education has been a failure and now he wants to take retribution on the teachers of New York? That might be," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

Since 2010, closures have had to be approved by the PEP. Before the panel votes, hundreds of people have signed up to speak, sometimes waiting until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning.

Since the mayor appoints the majority of panel members, they have always voted to close the schools.

When the panel voted on 23 closures in February, it was a chaotic scene, with many boycotting the official microphone and using Occupy Wall Street tactics to try to shout over it.

The teachers' union tried to hold its own meeting down the street before giving up and joining the main protest. At one point, police officers wrongly locked dozens of people out.

The end result was the same — the panel approved the closings.

This time, the UFT is protesting at City Hall instead.

"PEP, one of the common themes is puppets, the mayor's puppets. So we decided, why talk to the puppets? Let's go to City Hall where the puppet master is," said Mulgrew.

Hundreds are still expected to protest at the Thursday panel meeting. Teachers and students said they want to be heard, even though at this point, nobody expects to influence the vote.

Their last hope may lie with the courts. Ever since the mayor first announced this plan, the union has said it hopes to sue.

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