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Friday, March 30, 2007

Community Education Council in District 1 Opposes Restructuring, Calls for Smaller Class Sizes

At a press conference yesterday, the Mayor lashed out at proponents of smaller class sizes for our overcrowded schools. Perhaps he should read the resolution passed by these parent leaders elected to represent the parent agenda in District 1 of Manhattan and recognized by the Department of Ed. This resolution follows similar ones by the Citywide Council of High Schools, Stuyvesant High School and other elected parent bodies.



WHEREAS, District 1 has requested information regarding school-specific impacts and District structure along with other questions for which information or answers were not provided;

WHEREAS, This plan is being implemented in a reckless and hasty manner;

WHEREAS, After having reviewed the Department of Education's Children First: and Fair Student Funding Plan;

WHEREAS, By financially penalizing schools for having experienced teachers over time, will likely lead to a less qualified teaching force in our schools, which already have nearly double the attrition rate of teachers more than anywhere else in the state;

WHEREAS, Reaffirming the fact that some of our schools and classrooms in District 1 and city-wide are severely overcrowded and our children's quality of education is suffering from this ongoing crisis;

WHEREAS, Many schools are being penalized for low levels of achievement as a result of this overcrowding, which is out of their control;

WHEREAS, Research and our own experience in District 1 strongly indicates that reduced class size makes a big difference in a child's education, and will lead to higher overall graduation rates;

WHEREAS, the best way to retain effective and experienced teachers is to improve classroom conditions by lowering class size;

WHEREAS, Smaller classes has been one of the top priorities of District 1 parents, school leaders, teachers, New York City Council Members, Assembly Members and many constituents for the last twenty years;

WHEREAS, The state's highest court found that classes in NYC schools were too large in all grades to provide our children with their constitutional right to an adequate education;

WHEREAS, Despite claims from the Department of Education, state data shows that there has been little or no progress in reducing class size since that decision was written, and in some key subjects, class sizes have actually risen;

WHEREAS, An audit released last March by the State Comptroller's Office found that with $89 million in state funds targeted to create 1,586 additional classes to reduce class size, the city had only created 20, contrary to the language and intent of the law;

WHEREAS, Despite billions of dollars in added funds, the Department of Education does not intend to reduce average class size in any grade higher than 3rd, and to use only 2% of the extra funds for smaller classes;

WHEREAS, This would leave our children still deprived of the attention they need in classes that are up to 60% larger than the rest of the state; doubtlessly contributing to an unconscionably high dropout rate in our high schools, and a 43.5% four-year graduation rate according to the State Education department;

WHEREAS, Despite claims to the contrary, there is no independent evidence that in the last round of reorganization, $200 million was ever redirected directly into the classroom;

WHEREAS, As a result of that reorganization, thousands of special education students were not evaluated in a timely fashion and many were denied their right to mandated services, in accordance with the Federal Law, and the Department of Education also cut spending on
special education by $445 million in one year;

WHEREAS, the following year, despite claims that more funding was being driven to the classroom, total dollars spent on general education declined by $144 million;

WHEREAS, according to the Educational Priorities Panel, a smaller percentage of the overall budget has gone to instruction each year;

WHEREAS, the head count and salaries of Tweed employees has grown substantially, and continues to grow, with a projected increase of 12% in spending for Tweed staff next year;

WHEREAS, In contrast, our schools are still under-funded, and under this new system, up to half of all schools may have their budgets further cut, despite $1.1 billion in planned additional education spending next year and more than $5 billion over the next four years;

WHEREAS, The implementation of a similar proposal, supposed to make funding fairer, and more flexible caused one of the largest educational crises in Great Britain's history, with the threat of massive teacher lay-offs and children actually sent home from school after only four days of instruction, until an emergency supplementary bill to provide additional funding for schools could be passed;

WHEREAS, Sir Michael Barber, the Chief Education Advisor at the time for Prime Minister Tony Blair, is now a top consultant at Tweed, and helped devise this new proposal;

WHEREAS, There is no evidence of any school system in the world that has adopted weighted funding like the proposed Fair Student Funding, and has made significant progress in student achievement;

WHEREAS, Though DOE claims that many principals in the empowerment zone last year used their additional funding and flexibility to hire extra teachers to reduce class size, principals reported that they were simply sent more students by Tweed as a result, erasing any
chance of actually providing them with smaller classes;

WHEREAS, The administration has admitted this may have occurred in many instances, and yet refuses to promise that it will not happen again;

WHEREAS, For many middle and high school teachers, given their huge class sizes and teaching loads, just spending 5 minutes out of class conferring with each student, and another five minutes correcting his or her weekly homework would take an additional 40 hours per week;

WHEREAS, The Department of Education has just contracted with IBM for $80 million to produce a new data management system whose function and purpose is supposedly to help teachers individualize instruction to meet the needs of each student, and yet with class sizes of 30 or more in many schools, and teaching loads of 150-180 students, it will continue to be impossible for teachers to do so;

WHEREAS, The new accountability/grading system is also potentially dangerous, and may lead principals to discharge, transfer, suspend, and otherwise try to rid their schools of low-achieving students any way they can, since their jobs will depend upon raising test scores sufficiently;

WHEREAS, The data reported by Department of Education regarding class size, graduation rates, and many other measures is often inaccurate and unreliable, so the new formula for assessing the progress of schools will be based on similarly erroneous metrics;

WHEREAS, In trying to impose a new system citywide without adequate consultation, careful thought, or testing, education officials have previously caused grave problems, most recently as in the bus route fiasco;

WHEREAS, For all the above reasons and more, in numerous public meetings, parents and teachers have urged the Department of Education to stop this new reorganization from going forward, because of the substantial risk that rather than improving our schools, it will lead
to further chaos, instability, and budget cuts, and may result in class sizes growing even larger at many schools;

RESOLVED, That the Community Education Council in District One rejects the Department of Education's Children First proposal and calls upon the Mayor and Chancellor to designate that an adequate amount of CFE funds, be utilized to reduce class size in all grades throughout all
New York City public schools, so that our children will finally receive their right to an adequate education and a better chance in getting a quality education, by giving them a more solid foundation towards their future.

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