Black and Hispanic former teachers and once-aspiring educators in New York are subjected to a massive payout after a Manhattan court found that the required certification exam was biased.
According to the New York Post, over $1.8 billion in judgments would make their way to around 5,200 Hispanic and Black former educators and ex-aspiring teachers who reportedly failed the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test (LAST) prospective educators had to take to obtain their teaching licenses from 1994 to 2014.
And 225 qualified people have been notified of their settlements of at least $1 million.
Some multi-million dollar award recipients are 64-year-old Herman Grim of Queens, who was awarded $2,055,383 on July 5. While Grim doesn’t recall how the test was biased, he does remember studying for it and seeking guidance from numerous tutors. But each time he took the exam, he’d fail.
Another former educator awarded big bucks was 62-year-old Andrea Durant of CenterMoriches on Long Island. The court awarded Durant $1,976,787 and posthumously vested $1,875,119 to the estate of the late Kathy Faye Bailey of Queens.
The court based the awarded amounts on what the teachers and aspiring teachers would’ve made if they had passed the examination and continued to work in New York City’s public school system. Also, the dates when the plaintiffs failed the test determined the award’s size. So, the further back they failed the test, the more money.
The city decided to set $1.8 billion aside for the case in November 2021, and they would disperse the funds to victims through 2028. Since then, 2,959 of the 5,200 plaintiffs have received their awarded amounts, totaling $750 million.
The city may also have to pay the plaintiff’s lawyer’s fees, which are looking to be over $40 million.
NYP also reported that the settlement would monetarily impact taxpayers to ensure that many plaintiffs receive health insurance and pension checks predicated on how long they didn’t work after reaching the retirement age.
While the settlement is seen as good news to those affected, critics in the city disagree. Arthur Goldstein, who retired as a Francis Lewis High School teacher, agreed that the test didn’t properly dictate how a teacher would perform in the classroom. But he believed the lawsuit wouldn’t have monetarily impacted the city greatly had it hired those who sued.
“All this money for nothing — nothing! I’ve been teaching in…overcrowded classrooms in miserable conditions when we could’ve had more teachers working. Instead, we just have the city paying [money] for no reason at all. It’s ridiculous,” Goldstein said.
An unnamed Brooklyn principal disagreed with the entire premise of the 1996 lawsuit, arguing that the test wasn’t biased.
“The standards are the standards,” the principal stated. “It shouldn’t be based on what would be easy for Blacks or whites. To hire people who are not qualified and change the requirements because a certain group didn’t pass the test is bulls**t.”
However, the 1996 lawsuit filed by plaintiffs Elsa Gulino, Mayling Ralph, Peter Wilds and Nia Greene on behalf of themselves and other Blacks and Hispanics affected found that 93 percent of white test takers passed the LAST and 83.7 percent of them passed the National Teacher Examination (NTE). Meanwhile, only 53 percent of African Americans and 50 percent of Latino test-takers passed the LAST, and 43.9 percent of Blacks and 40.3 percent of Latino test-takers passed the NTE.
The lawsuit was filed against the city’s former Board of Education and the New York State Education Department. The city used to control the Board of Education before the state Legislature gave control power to the mayor’s Dept. of Education.
The biased tests forced many Black and Latin teachers to work as substitutes instead of full-time instructors. It also pushed those impacted out of the city to find jobs elsewhere.
The lawsuit didn’t do so well in the legal system, with judges finding favor in the city until 2012 when Manhattan federal Judge Kimba Wood sided with the plaintiffs. Wood ruled that the LAST violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.