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Sunday, November 7, 2010

NYC parents speak out on school overcrowding crisis

Two prominent parent leaders have written opeds in community papers about the crisis of overcrowding in our schools -- common across many parts of the city, though the DOE claims otherwise.

DOE officials consistently insist that there is only "pocket overcrowding," that their wholly inadequate capital plan is sufficient, and yet refuse to provide accurate overcrowding data or enrollment projections.

The DOE consultants, the Grier Partnership, predicted in 2008 that enrollment increases in elementary and middle schools would not occur until after 2016 -- yet this occurred already in 2009, and is expected to occur this year as well.

See Noah Gotbaum's piece in the West Side Spirit, and Tricia Joyce's column in the Downtown Express. Noah is the President of the Community Education Council in District 3 on the Upper West Side, and Tricia is a member of the Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan. Both of their communities have seen massive development, without sufficient expansion of school seats.

And though the Upper West Side and Tribeca may be among the worst hit neighborhoods , this is a damaging trend that will soon visit many more communities, as the city's birth rate has risen, and nearly all districts have already experienced a sharp increase in the number of Kindergarten students.

While the DOE claims not to rely on its expensive consultants for enrollment projections, and says that it does its own projections that are more accurate, they refuse to make these public. Moreover, although CEC's are being asked by DOE to rezone school attendance lines, the DOE has so far failed to provide them with the data they need to do this job reliably.

The mayor's heedless support of overdevelopment and the chancellor's uncaring attitude about meeting our children's need for small classes and uncrowded facilities has led to this crisis; in fact, Klein suggested at a recent public meeting in District 2 that school overcrowding was something to be "happy" about since it showed that the city and our schools were so desirable; his new mantra was repeated to me a few days later with a straight face by a top DOE official.

Unfortunately, this crisis is likely to play into his hands and those of the charter operators, who are already advertising the lack of seats as an added inducement to apply to their schools, even though their placement in district school buildings contributes to even worse systemic overcrowding.

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