Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hundreds of Parents and Children Rallied Against NYC School Overcrowding

Contact: Andy Lachman
Parent Leaders of Upper East Side Schools

Hundreds of Parents and Children Rallied Against NYC School Overcrowding

Every child in NYC deserves a neighborhood school

New York, NY May 6, 2009 — Hundreds rallied on the steps of City Hall this afternoon, including public school parents, children and elected officials to demand that Joel Klein and the Department of Education address the overcrowding crisis in their schools and fulfill their obligation to provide seats for the hundreds of kindergarten children who do not currently have space in their neighborhood schools.

“The DOE’s failure to plan for the future has been an unexcused absence at our neighborhood schools,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. “Our schools are bursting at the seams, pre-kindergarten classes are being eliminated, and science labs and art rooms are being turned into classrooms throughout the city. PS 151 parents are still waiting to hear where their children will be going to school in the fall. We need serious solutions that address the immediate and long-term school overcrowding crisis in our community, and we need them now.”

“Chancellor Joel Klein has a flawed plan for coping with the excess registration of over 300 4-and 5-year-old children in District 2 which is to hope that the problem will go away when parents send their children to gifted and talented programs elsewhere. He has refused to provide them with seats in their neighborhood schools. Parents are left to speculate on which far-flung school their kindergarteners will be enrolled at some unspecified date,” said Andy Lachman of the Parent Leaders of Upper East Side Schools (PLUS).

The growth in enrollment in communities throughout the city has been occurring steadily over several years, and there will be even more overcrowding in the future, and a lack of seats in neighborhood schools, until and unless the city adopts a plan to build and lease sufficient new schools.

"When parents doubt that there's a seat for their child in their neighborhood school, they pack up and leave the City - taking their tax dollars with them," said Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer. “In my ‘Crowded Out’ reports last year, I blew the whistle on the City's broken planning process, and in the Campaign for A Better Capital Plan, we proposed specific reforms. But despite this, DOE is still leaving parents in the lurch and leaving kindergartners and pre-kindergartners on the outside looking in. Even in tough financial times, building new schools is an investment we can't afford NOT to make."

"In fighting for control of the school system, Mayor Bloomberg urged that we could hold him solely accountable for the schools. But instead of using this power to devise a comprehensive plan to ensure that every kid has a seat in their neighborhood, they have asked the community to find solutions, then refused to listen to their advice. Since the Mayor is solely accountable for the schools, he is solely to blame for the fiasco created by the DOE's short-sighted ‘solutions’,” said Assemblymember Deborah Glick.

On the Upper East Side, over 150 kids are on waitlists for kindergarten for their zoned schools and 150 children who are zoned for PS 151 have no school.

“Neighborhood elementary schools are critically important to maintaining the fabric of our communities,“ said Council Member Dan Garodnick, who represents part of the East Side of Manhattan. "Parents need assurances that their neighborhood schools will be available to their children, and the Department of Education must act now—not this summer, and not next year—to fix this problem and end the waiting game.”

“This problem did not arise overnight. I have been warning the DOE about this for years and they didn’t act. Now we’re in a crisis,” Council Member Jessica Lappin, who represents another section of the Upper East Side, said. “Not only do we need short-term solutions for the families on waiting lists this year, but we need to plan ahead so that we’re not in the exact same position again next year.”

“A key example of the DOE’s failure to address overcrowding is the fact that after nearly 10 years, the children in the PS 151 zone still don’t have a school. The DOE could fix most of the UES overcrowding by moving Richard Green High School to a new location in District 2 and reopening PS 66,” said Beth Orchulli, a 151 zoned parent.

On Tuesday afternoon, the DOE announced that 60 of the 90 children waitlisted for PS 3 and PS 41 in Greenwich Village would be squeezed into those schools by eliminating pre-K programs, and by raising class sizes to the contractual maximum of 25-30.

“The DOE has increased class sizes, eliminated science and art rooms, and maxed out every possible space,” said Henry Sidel of Kids Shut Out (KSO), the group of families who were waitlisted for PS 41 and PS 3.

”The DOE has refused for years, despite numerous warnings, to plan for growth. Already this year, class sizes increased citywide in all grades but one – by the largest amount in ten years. Next year will be even worse. Instead of subsidizing sports stadiums, Mayor Bloomberg needs to focus his attention on the needs of our children – who already are suffering from the largest classes in the state– and start building and leasing more schools now!” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

"I am so disheartened that the same short-sightedness that brought about this problem is being used to find a band-aid solution. PS 3 is not currently equipped and doesn't have the infrastructure to handle additional classes effectively and safely. This is not a solution. This is a recipe for disaster. We need a real solution, we need more schools to handle the increase of children," said Samantha Harmon, PS 3 PTA Co-President.

“New York City parents are united in calling for seats in neighborhood schools for all wait-listed children and an end to overcrowded schools as our only response to neighborhood growth. We ask that our elected leaders make a commitment to neighborhood education, by realistic planning for future school capacity, and by adequate capital spending to meet our city’s educational needs,” said Ann Kjellberg of Public School Parent Advocacy Committee (PS.PAC).

“Manhattan school overcrowding is a case study in mismanagement. We are about to complete a five year capital plan that was supposed to bring every Kindergarten through 3rd grade class to 20 students but instead we have 25, 28 or just a spot on a wait list. Chancellor Joel Klein says our schools are so far over capacity because too many parents want to send their kids to public school. The Chancellor must stop blaming parents and stop deflecting the blame. We hear all about ‘accountability’ when the Chancellor wants more standardized tests but he refuses to be held accountable himself,” said Patrick J. Sullivan, Manhattan member of the Panel for Educational Policy.

“The capping and over-crowding problems facing District 2 are nothing new to the parents and residents of District 10 in the Bronx. At least seven elementary/middle schools are capped this year, and we had to resort to zone line changes to hopefully prevent some of our future Kindergartners from being bussed out of zone due to overcrowding. District 10 needs all of its originally projected 4,000 additional seats to be constructed as soon as possible to accommodate our growing school aged population,” said Marvin Shelton of CEC 10.

“The CEC is pleased to be part of this grass-roots effort to support all families in District 2 and to stand side by side with all New York City families. Mayor Bloomberg has touted that New York City is a great place to raise a family and that includes making sure every child who wants a seat has one in their neighborhood elementary school, starting with Kindergarten,” said Rebecca Daniels, CEC District 2 President.

The rally was co-sponsored by: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Council Member Robert Jackson, Council Member Jessica Lappin, Council Member Dan Garodnick, Community Education Council District 2, Manhattan Community Boards 1, 2, 6 and 8, Class Size Matters, Manhattan Borough President’s Task Force on Overcrowding, Parent Leaders of Upper East Side Schools (PLUS), Public School Parent Advocacy Committee (PS.PAC), and Kids Shut OUT (KSO).

# # #