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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Kindergarten Overcrowding Debacle -- DOE Denies Accountability

Hundreds of public school parents, children and elected officials gathered at city hall on Wednesday to protest overcrowded schools and kindergarten wait lists.

See the full press release here. See the NY1 coverage here: video

Links to other press coverage: Parents Protest School Waiting Lists (NY Times), Parents Protest Overcrowding in Kindergarten (WNYC); Mayor Bloomberg irked by dual City Hall rallies protesting kindergarten waiting lists (Daily News); Bloomberg Dismisses Kindergarten Protests (NY Magazine).

Despite their 14-person press office, the rally and ensuing media onslaught knocked the Department of Education into total disarray. DOE officials had a hard time keeping their story straight.

First, the party line from Chancellor Klein was that there isn't really a problem because most of the 300+ children will go to a gifted and talented program or private school. Never mind that private school admissions are done and the new found love of G&T is just a fig leaf for an aggressive busing program. Most parents don't want to bus their kid for an hour across the city to a G&T program.

Next, DOE announced they'd simply evict 65 pre-K children from PS 3 and 41 in the Village. That move drew a sharp rebuke from Council Speaker Chris Quinn for pitting 4 year olds against 5 year olds. (see NY1 clip).

Then, quite improbably, DOE official John White told WNYC that it was all the previous administration's fault -- those guys didn't plan properly to build schools. Sorry John, but Rudy Giuliani hasn’t been the mayor since December of 2001. You can't pass the buck when you claim to be the guys who introduced "accountability" to education.

Finally, handed a bowl of lemons by the bungling DOE, the mayor tried to make some lemonade:

"They complained about a couple a hundred kids not being able to get in to the schools they wanted to get into. I can tell you how to fix that. Just lower the quality of the schools. That's where we came from. Isn't it wonderful that kids want to get into schools?”

The mayor went on to say "These kids will find schools."

But who is accountable here? It's not the five year olds that are supposed to find schools, it is the responsibility of the mayor's handpicked team to manage planning, construction, zoning and enrollment for schools. Wasn't that what mayoral control was all about?

The current crisis is simply a result of bad management. The city issued the building permits and knew the kids were coming. Everyone knew. All you had to do was look up to see the residential towers growing.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have to say I actually agree with the mayor on this. Finally the middle class is fleeing TO the schools and we have a problem we never had before. People are paying millions for apts so they can be near a good public school.

The mayor is actually a victim of his own success on this one! Rudy Crew would have loved to have this problem!

I'm curious, is there anything the parents on this site like about the current administration?

Leonie Haimson said...

The Mayor helped unleash a development boom and did nothing to ensure that there were schools to hold all the kids. I call that a profound failure of leadership, not a success.

Patrick Sullivan said...

The pattern of families staying in the cities predates the Bloomberg administration by many years. True, these schools with wait lists are attractive but that was true before Klein's tenure. In fact some of them are really suffering now from Klein's systematic neglect. Consider PS 6 which as recently as 2005 still had class sizes of 20 in K-3rd grade. Now they have closed their art room, collapsed higher grade classes to increase class sizes and Kingergartens are at 27 and 28. Other schools like 234 and 116 have lost their pre-K.

People rightfully point out that what is now happening in District 2 and 3 had long been true in District 6 (Washington Heights / Inwood). The systemic overcrowding and loss of art/music/science rooms in District 6 is what drove the local school board to file the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. The fact that these problems were never remedied there is truly shameful. When the Panel for Educational Policy voted on the capital plan, Robert Jackson (who represents District 6 in the City Council and was a plaintiff on the CFE suit) presented a chart showing that the district only has 54% of the cluster rooms it should have under DOE guidelines.

The mayor has clearly been successful at fostering the residential building boom. He has not been successful at creating sufficient school capacity to either resolve the chronic problems he inherited or to address the needs of a growing city.

Anonymous said...

This is a disgusting problem. Total lack of preparedness. Hire some new teachers get some portable classrooms in the school yard, so at least these kids have someplace to go for now. Then open some new schools- like the abandoned one on East 91st Street. Kindergarten is entirely NECESSARY. These aren't the days when we went to school. By first grade these kids are reading and writing stories. If a child misses out on a year of preparation and is just put into 1st grade--- then he will begin his education behind the others who did get a spot. When and how will he be expected to make that lost time up? Speaking of the first grade, these kids won't just go away. If there is no room for them in Kindergarten- where does the DOE plan to place them in first grade (a mandatory year)? This administration needs to get it together!!!

Anonymous said...

This is a disgusting problem. Total lack of preparedness. Hire some new teachers get some portable classrooms in the school yard, so at least these kids have someplace to go for now. Then open some new schools- like the abandoned one on East 91st Street. Kindergarten is entirely NECESSARY. These aren't the days when we went to school. By first grade these kids are reading and writing stories. If a child misses out on a year of preparation and is just put into 1st grade--- then he will begin his education behind the others who did get a spot. When and how will he be expected to make that lost time up? Speaking of the first grade, these kids won't just go away. If there is no room for them in Kindergarten- where does the DOE plan to place them in first grade (a mandatory year)? This administration needs to get it together!!!

Anonymous said...

Just because I heard from all my friends and colleagues how confusing the public school Pre K application process is, I have been on the search for a pre K program ever since my son was born three years ago. As a parent, I feel I followed all the regulations and requirements and applied online as soon as the application came out. I eagerly waited for the notification date on May 18th. To my disappointment and shocker, I received a rejection notification on the end of business day on May 22nd. As a parent I am lost, angry and confused. Now, my child has no school to go to. We have to wait until July for the possible second round of applications. By that time we will lose the only place we have in the CBO if not lose our deposits there. What is the city doing? What transparency is there for parents? The slap on the face is the reward for all the years of inquiring about the process!

Anonymous said...

How disgusting? When I called the enrollment center, they informed me that there is nothing they can do about it. Parents have to call the Mayor. Isn’t the Mayor aware of the crisis in the city: the increase birth rate, immigration, and whole other situations. Where do I put my child for next year so he does not fall behind when he starts Kindergarten?

Anonymous said...

I know someone who taught at a NYC high school called 'The Facing History High School' in 2007 and he had the worst experience ever. The administration was unsupportive, especially the principal Gillian Smith who intimidated and harassed the teachers non stop. No resources at this school (read: no working computers or paper etc.) and no support. Go elsewhere.