Many buildings claimed as “new school construction” are instead space leased in office buildings or parochial schools. What’s the problem with counting leased seats the same as new school construction? For one thing, the city never includes in their calculation how many seats are lost each year, when leased spaces lapse.
See this list of leases for Manhattan schools alone -- with thousands of seats subtracted due to lost leases in recent years. And the list is not even complete. For example, Baruch College HS, which lost its space last year, will spend one year in the former School for the Physical City, until that lease is finished, with no permanent home yet for the future.
The city’s press release also blatantly claims that this year’s total of 13,000 seats plus last year’s total, “represents the most-ever new classroom seats to come on line in a two-year period since the School Construction Authority was created in 1988.”
This is false. As Juan writes, “During three of those years, Giuliani created an average of 19,000 new seats. Under Bloomberg, the city has created more than 14,000 seats only once, in 2005, and school overcrowding continues to grow.”
Also, while the press release claims that “the 2005-2009 Capital Plan [was] the largest school construction effort in the City’s history,” this is not true either. Many previous administrations have built many more seats. Even Kathleen Grimm, Deputy Chancellor, was forced to admit this at a recent City Council hearing, when Robert Jackson presented her with the facts. See this account at Gotham Schools.
And the overcrowding has worsened, contrary to what City Hall claims. According to the DOE’s “Blue Book” 48 percent of students attended overcrowded schools as of the 2007-8 school year. This compares to 43 percent of students the year before. (We have no data as of 2008-9 as of yet.) Hundreds of children were put on waiting lists for Kindergarten this fall.
The new five year capital plan further cuts the number of new seats by 60 percent -- which will provide only approximately one third of the space necessary to eliminate current overcrowding and reduce class size to state-mandated levels -- and will do nothing to address the increased enrollment expected in neighborhoods throughout the city.
Three recent reports, from the NYC Comptroller, from the Manhattan Borough President, and from the Campaign for a Better Capital Plan, have each pointed out how school construction has lagged considerably behind the needs of our growing school-age population.
Just yesterday, the Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer put out yet another report, School Daze, showing how the DOE’s enrollment projections have consistently fallen short, and do not take into count the growth of new residential development, making it likely that thousands of Manhattan children will be left without schools in the near future.
Our classrooms are already overcrowded, and our children are facing a worsening crisis unless the city faces the truth – and builds more schools. In a recent survey, 86 percent of principals said that their class sizes were already too large to provide a quality education.
Indeed, the city is supposed to grow by a million residents by 2030 – without any plan to deal with the increased number of schoolchildren this will entail. Yet the only mention of schools in the PlaNYC report that detailed the need for improvements in every other aspect of the city’s infrastructure was a recommendation that excess school buildings should be renovated into more housing.