Tuesday, February 23, 2016

BOMBSHELL: ACLU-ELC joins Hoboken BoE Appeal


The court battle between two Hoboken school districts: one public and the other, a publicly-funded Charter, is about to get some attention.

Two powerful legal and civil rights organizations have aligned themselves with the Hoboken School District and joined their Appeal to overturn NJ-DOE Acting Commissioner David C. Hespe's  March 20, 2015 decision  on the 7th/8th grade expansion of HoLa Dual Language Charter School. 

They are  the nation's leading civil rights organization,  the American Civil Liberties Union (NJ Chapter)   and  New Jersey’s leading legal advocate for public school children, the Education Law Center.   

If you haven't heard of the Education Law Center (ELC),  you have heard of "Abbott districts"- in fact, Hoboken is one.

In 1981, the ELC filed the Abbott v. Burke case on behalf of all children attending poor and urban schools in New Jersey. In 1990, the NJ Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision in its historic Abbott II ruling and ordered the State to provide the urban school districts with funding at “parity” with suburban schools as well as supplemental programs to address their special needs.

The Abbott v. Burke decisions have been heralded as the most important legal advances for public school children since Brown v. Board of Education. 

In addition to parity funding, the decisions led to creation of the successful, high quality Abbott preschool program (like Hoboken's), an extensive schools construction program, and a series of academic and wraparound programs to support at-risk students in the state’s urban school districts.

So, on November 30, 2015 both the ACLU and the ELC entered as  amicus curiae  for the Hoboken District.



The ACLU-ELC's 30-page amicus brief is a scathing indictment of the New Jersey Department of Education's handling of the HoLa 's"expansion and renewal*" application.  (*Note: every time a charter files an application to expand, it is  required to renew it's charter, hence "expansion and renewal")

It details how NJDOE Commisioner Hespe "analyzed improper data" to arrive at "flawed findings" and made "legal errors" to arrive at his March 20, 2015 decision. 

The ACLU-ELC brief concludes with a single paragraph:


GA note: Parents are not to blame for supporting their school. The problem was and continues to be with the two Commissioners of Education (Cerf, then Hespe) and their capricious implementation, at the district’s expense, of Gov. Christie’s pro-charter agenda.  

70 comments:

  1. This sounds expensive. Who gets stuck with the legal bills ?

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    1. No bills. ACLU is a non-profit.

      Legal bills are nominal compared to the taxpayer bill for the school expansion.

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    2. Legal bills are nominal when you just consider the lifetime cost of employing one of the founders of HoLa to run HoLa.

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    3. what about the bill of running 4 separate publicly funded school districts with a duplication of services in a small town?

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    4. Yes - the HoLa supporters like to ignore all the waste associated with hiring all those non-teachers, paying all that rent and other overhead expenses we just don't need to pay.

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    5. No, the briefs are top secret and being kept safe in Hillary Clinton's server in a bathroom in Denver.

      You can get a copy however from the Russians or Chinese intelligence.

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    6. Hey relax bloggies!
      I just wanted to know who gets the bill.
      Got the answer.
      Don't get your panties in a bunch.

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  2. Yeah. Let's talk about the bill instead of the fact that a nationally recognized leader in civil rights finds merit to the Bd's case.

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    1. Ha! Flies are attracted to honey, you know.

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    2. Anon 2:20 again. I think it is good that ACLU is joining but I always like to know how the bill is going to be paid. Do Hoboken taxpayers have to pay for the legal bills for both sides of the litigation ?

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    3. Anon 3:04- no. the boe is funding the appeal from fundraising. HoLa doesn't report how they spend their budget, I guess you can OPRA it.

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    4. Good to hear. Thanks.

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    5. HOLA has no budget oversight yet pulls money from this town? When in the history of Hoboken and Union county was that ever a good idea???

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    6. Especially with the people associated w/ that school.

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  3. Can you post the full briefs? It would certainly be interesting to see what all the parties had to say in their arguments.

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  4. I agree with Anon 3:03! I would also like to see the briefs. Any idea why we are just now finding out about this given they filed back in November? Just curious (and not at all a slam on GA who has clearly had her hands full since then!)

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    1. IMO, litigants generally do not discuss ongoing litigation and defer to counsel.

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    2. Loos Lips Sink Ships!

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  5. Filings of amicus briefs by public interest groups like the ACLU and the ELC are often accompanied by press releases and greeted with a great deal of public fanfare. Its pretty unlikely that the choice to keep this on the down low was a legal decision made by counsel rather than a PR decision that's puzzling on the surface since it seems like the kind of thing you'd shout from the rooftops. I'm sure there was a good reason though it does seem a bit odd.

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    1. Could be theyre waiting on the Apellate for a hearing date. I wouldn't second guess the ACLU.

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    2. I'm not second guessing anyone and certainly not the ACLU or the ELC neither of which would never try to keep their involvement out of the public eye. I would have thought the school board having taken so much heat on this issue would be shouting from the rooftops that the ACLU and the ELC had filed amicus briefs. I'm sure there was a good reason and I'm not second guessing because I'm sure there's a reason but it's odd and that means there's something missing from the picture here. And waiting for a hearing date makes no sense. Why would they do that?

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    3. Yeah, who knows. One may ponder. I's a rooftop-screamer myself.

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    4. No one on the BOE gets a nickel. They pursued the suit because it's the right thing to do for the district kids - even if the money has to be donated by other people who likewise have no possible financial benefit.

      We can understand nearly anything political in Hoboken. But we absolutely can't wrap our head around the idea of simply doing the right thing and going home.

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  6. This may explain the full court press in the audience at the last meeting. Drop the suit and no one ever hears about the ACLU or Edlaw. Wonder if someone knew it was coming out and helpfully arranged a resolution?

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  7. Petrosino posted the Barbara Martinez letter on his crapademic blog- right after this news dropped.

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  8. I think this is great news. We can finally get rid of this Abbott status for Hoboken.

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    1. This case has nothing to do with changing Hoboken's Abbott status.

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  9. So bottom line, the Board was right in bringing the lawsuit to stop the DoE from screwing over the District.

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    1. How do you get from the filing of an amicus brief to this proves the Board was right to bring the lawsuit?

      Was the purpose of the lawsuit to get the the ACLU and the ELC to file amicus briefs? Because that's the only way the filing of an amicus brief by two anti-charter liberal groups would prove anything about anything.

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    2. https://www.aclu.org/
      WHAT WE DO
      The ACLU fights to protect civil liberties and rights for all Americans in courts across the country.

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    3. OK so if the ACLU takes a position it must be right since they speak for all right minded people everywhere only racists would ever disagree with the ACLU (or support the expansion of HoLa.)

      After all - it says so on their website!

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    4. WOW! Odd response.

      Apparently, you are no fan of the ACLU.

      To save everyone's time , can we just agree that anyone or any organization who says or indicates anything not supportive of your school would be seen as anti-charter liberal groups that would prove anything about anything."

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    5. Point is, ACLU's focus is civil rights not simply helping ensure a business in the guise of a charter school has protected income flow from taxpayers.

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    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    2. really? I don't see it at all but apparently you seem to working hard to make the connection. If I were really cynical I would think it was to scare people who now use the PreK.

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    3. There are at least two locations posting that "losing Abbott funding" drivel, it's a coordinated roll-out of anti-BoE propaganda. Hand me a broom.

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    4. lawsuit affect abbott status?

      City valuation and the ratio of poverty is the basis for abbott funding ( along with full funding by the state but currently that is not pertinent to the immediate issue).
      Practically speaking only abbotts are constitutionally protected financially based on past lawsuits and the ability to use ratables to pay for education. That is; Non abbott districts would have a hard time arguing ability to fund education as some 97% of education bill is paid for by the local tax payers and they their ratables would allow them to afford paying for more if needed and prior abbott lawsuits provide additional protection via court orders.

      The best case scenario: not deal with a protected district.

      My guess: the line of his/her thinking is that charter is arguing that the city can afford to pay higher levy to offset any costs incurred by the expansion. Thereby spreading the "abbott status change" would be an attempt to explain the cost increase to local taxpayers. Of course this also means the charter would have to argue that hoboken should not be getting abbott to begin with- offhanded indication that the district would then not be financially "protected " as the district would have a hard time explaining why the taxpayers couldnt afford the increase. Voile, funding issue dismissed.(and of course, doesn't take into account the 2% local tax cap).

      In other words lots of nothing.


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    1. Tell you what, come back for a future post discussing the future of Abbott funding. That is not the topic of this post. Pass it on to your friends. Broom, please!

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    2. Today's news sure has our friends rattled. Maybe you need to post the amicus brief so it's clear there's no Abbott linkage. I'd like to see why the ACLU and ELC came in for the BoE.

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    3. Did you read GA's post? The ACLU and EDlaw Center worked long and hard fighting FOR Abbott. "On behalf of all children attending poor and urban schools in New Jersey" and it has been reaffirmed by the NJ Supreme Court. I am sure both organizations have filed 100's of briefs championing similar issues concerning fairness and equity over the years. None mentioning Abbott.

      The ACLU conclusion states "for the reasons stated above" they request the court to reverse the decission. I curious to see their reasons.

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    4. Oh, didnt you get the memo? The ACLU and ELC have changed their missions, they are now "anti-charter liberal groups"

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  12. Just heard story on WNYC about school choice leading to de facto segregation. Sounds like a story about Hoboken's current social ills. Or are facts liberal anti-charters. Remember, the lawsuit is about de facto segregation. Not intentional racism. The story notes there are better outcomes when integrated. And one guy complained that because a kid is poor he'll be disruptive. That's judging someone before you've met them based solely on their class of race.

    http://www.wnyc.org/story/desegregation-proposal-depends-choices-parents/

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  13. And the NY Times had a piece on desegregating schools. A disturnbing quote is that 'In some ways, it’s as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.'

    Read it yourself. Rockwell was right segregation in education remains the problem we all live with.

    The Secret to School Integration http://nyti.ms/20Sewq8

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  14. One of the founding members of the ACLU was peace activist and social worker Jane Addams. Among the many individuals the ACLU defended in the past included H. L. Mencken, Allen Ginsberg, and Vietnam war protestors. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg started the Women's Rights Project as an ACLU attorney. Let that sink in for some of the commenters on here.

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  15. I think Charters enrich the public education opportunities available to all students.

    Does anyone here think Elysian, Hoboken Charter, or Hola should be closed down?

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    1. No. No one does. Put away the straw man.

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    2. I definitely agree that HoLa has been enriching to some, just not for students. Hence the problem.

      You have to love how the HoLa trolls are trying to link their "school" to the other charters. I suspect even they cannot defend their school on how it was set up, who is behind it, who works there, how it is run and so forth. Hard to defend the indefensible.

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    3. No one is talking about closing the charters down--except maybe the trolls from HoLa.

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    4. Worst thing is how they cleared the building of B&G kids once they settled in. HoLa's after school coordinator and current B&G director are the same person- wife of politician Carmelo Garcia. It all stinks. Now the kids are all packed in the Jubilee Center, though probably many are back on the streets. The mission statement of the B&G Club is to keep kids off the streets and enrich their lives, show them somebody cares.

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    5. HoLa definitely does not care.

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    6. So the consensus is that Elysian, Hola, and Hoboken Charter should not be closed down? I'm not trying to be pedantic but having this stated plainly one way or the other should be the foundation of any conversation on Charter Schools.

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    7. I didn't think the case was about the merits of charters but about the State DOE following their rules about charters.

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    8. It's tough to tell without being able to see any of the briefs. GA can you link or post any brief you have?

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    9. Anon at 12:53 is correct- and I plan to post them.

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    10. Any idea when the first one(s) will be up?

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  16. A dose of reality. While the involvement of the ACLU is certainly a good thing for the School Board, it's hardly "proof" that the Board was right to sue or will win the lawsuit.

    The NJDC, ordinarily a fine organization, supported Beth Mason and attacked GA. Did that prove Mason was right?

    And if you say the ACLU is somehow different - noble, uncorruptable the gold standard of ethical righteousness and legal correctness, you might want to consider the amicus brief they filed in support of Beth Mason in Mason v the City of Hoboken supporting Mason's "right" to get paid legal fees by the Hoboken taxpayer for suing the City after spamming the City with OPRA requests and receiving everything she asked for a few days after the deadline even though Mason filed the suit after her deadline.

    Mason and the ACLU lost. In fact, the ACLU has lost about 1/2 of its cases before the US Supreme Court. I don't know their record before lower courts but there's no reason to think its any better.

    Any chance we'll see those briefs from all the parties? That would be a really educational read for all truly interested in evaluating the merits of all the partys' arguments.

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    1. This will be interesting to see what happens

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    2. I would beg to differ that the NJDC is a "fine" organization. That's a shitty example, and an insult to the ACLU.

      The fact that on of it's Board members slipped a ghostwritten Hoboken411 hit piece of garbage through the back door without making any effort to contact the subject, then was dishonest when confronted by the subject and an attorney makes them a corrupt organization that uses it's name to dole out favors for donors.

      Trying to stain the ACLU because they came in to argue for an unpopular pereson is equivalent to announcing the Pope is Catholic or the sky is blue. The ACLU has defended civil rights for a litany of characters on the extreme Left and Right. I find it contemptible for you to taint the good works of the ACLU because they take on unpopular individuals. They have also lobbied, argued and litigated successfully for voting rights, equal rights, gay rights, a woman's right to choose, and public education, and are active in every state in the U.S. NJ alone has over 15K members.

      No one has the expectation of automatic victory, no matter who is involved. I have personal experience in being in the right while losing in court.

      You seem to have a vested interest in casting shadows on the entry of these organizations in support of the Hoboken School Board.

      Yes, I most likely will but anyone can obtain copies as they are public documents- don't let me stop you.

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    3. yeah pffffft ACLU (yawn)

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  17. These are two different cases that really can't be compared. The reasons for getting involved in each are very unique

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  18. Dr. Petrocino must have all the briefs. Maybe he will post on his blog?

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    1. Great idea, he's had them since November-ask him. Oh yeah, he doesn't allow commenting.

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    2. Its a discussion Petrosino doesn't want.

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  19. I totally agree that every case is different and the reasons for getting involved were completely different.

    The ACLU wasn't on the "wrong" side of the Mason case because it was Mason and Mason is evil. Some of the ACLU's best and most honorable work has been in defending the rights of evil people whose views they disagreed with and even thought were reprehensible.

    They were on the wrong side of that case because in my opinion as well as the Supreme Court's they were simply wrong on the public policy and the law, and had the ACLU and Mason prevailed the decision would have had disastrous implications for NJ taxpayers way beyond the resolution of the particular case itself.

    This doesn't mean I think the ACLU and the school board are not right here. The two cases have nothing to do with each other except for the involvement of the ACLU in both.

    But if the SB is right and I'm not saying they're not, they are right because they're right not because the ACLU agrees. That's why I'd like to see the briefs.

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  20. charter school board is under the same ethics codes as a public district school board. Petrosino is a school board member, whose school is involved in litigation-It was my understanding that board members, city council etc..involved in lawsuits were not to speak publicly about the issues of the lawsuit yet Petrosino has been writing and blogging about this suit from the beginning till now.
    Isnt that an ethics violation? Is he voting on these matters or did he abstain?

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    1. Can you post the ethics rules that apply to NJ BOE members? Thsi way you can cite the rule you think has been broken.

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    2. So has Respondent Barbara Martinez. Respondent Petrosino is utterly dishonest- he writes screed after screed attacking the Hoboken district with nary a mention he is being sued by the district. And no commenting allowed. It's Pravda over there.

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