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New York City Black Teachers Get a $835 Million Payout from Decades-Old Discrimination Lawsuit

Black teachers have been fighting New York City since 1996 over a teacher licensing test they claimed was discriminatory. A judge has approved the $835 million settlement to end a decades-long major lawsuit brought by educators. The city is also setting aside an estimated $1.8 billion to be distributed over the next several years as compensation for additional claims.

Photo by Katerina Holmes:

Some 4,700 former Black and Latino  NYC teachers who were fired or demoted dating back to 1995 can now collect their portion of the settlement funds, the Wall Street Journal reports.

New York City decided to offer payouts after an appellate court ruled that the state was not the official employer of teachers and that they were instead city employees.

The teachers were either demoted or fired between 1996 and 2014 because they couldn’t pass the state licensing exam. They can go to court to collect their piece of the funds. Since the concession by the city, payments made to the teachers have ranged from just hundreds of dollars to almost $2 million, a spokesman told the WSJ.

White test takers passed at statistically significantly higher rates than Black and Latino test-takers, according to evidence the educators presented in court. In fact, more than 90 percent of white test takers passed, compared with less than 62 percent of Black test-takers and 55 percent of Latinos. Data showed that more than 93 percent of white test takers passed versus just 53 percent of Black test-takers and 50 percent of Latino test-takers, Afro Tech reported. The suing teachers claimed the test was biased.

Teachers are asked 80 multiple-choice questions and one essay on the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test. The questions cover math, science, humanities, history, communication skills, and other topics.

From the 1990s until 2014, teachers in New York State were required to pass the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test for teacher licensing. In 1996, a group of teachers sued New York City and state agencies, arguing that the use of the test was discriminatory and violated employment laws.

A court ruling in 2012 found that the test violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act because it didn’t relate to what teachers do in the classroom and it was an unfair measure of their skills.

“It was time to bring this long-standing case to a close,” a New York City law department spokesman said to WSJ.

New York City officials maintain that the city’s school system was only following the requirements established by the state.

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