Urban Education

Web Site Tracks Legal Hurdles

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A legal-reform advocacy group that contends numerous laws, court rulings, and regulations hamper schools in their job of educating students has launched a Web site to help dramatize its arguments.

The site was created by Common Good, a New York City-based coalition that calls for balancing individual legal claims against broader societal needs. It shows the laws and regulations that a public high school in New York City must comply with each day. The site covers requirements from such sources as major court decisions, state labor laws, federal anti-discrimination statutes, and the Children’s Internet Protection Act.

The Web site, www.cgood.org/ burden-of-law.html, displays an interactive chart showing the myriad steps required to carry out such tasks as firing an incompetent teacher, suspending a disruptive student, hosting an athletic event, and replacing a school’s heating system.

The group found more than 60 sources of local, state, and federal laws and regulations, thousands of court cases, and more than 15,000 decisions from the state education commissioner’s office that govern a typical New York City school.

“We need to lift this legal burden off America’s schools,” Philip K. Howard, the chairman of Common Good, said in unveiling the Web site and report. “We should let teachers and administrators use their judgment and then hold them accountable for their performance.”

Mr. Howard, a corporate lawyer, is a vice chairman of the law firm Covington & Burling in New York. He has written several books and worked with members of Congress, governors, and others on legal-reform issues.

The National School Boards Association and the American Association of School Administrators praised the report. And even though it blames union contracts as a significant problem, one prominent union leader did not disagree with the findings.

“Having contract provisions or laws that are one-size-fits-all are not a very good idea, except when it comes to discrimination issues or individual rights,” said Adam Urbanski, the president of the Rochester (N.Y.) Teachers Association, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

Vol. 24, Issue 16, Page 10

Published in Print: January 5, 2005, as Web Site Tracks Legal Hurdles

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