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Friday, June 6, 2014

Crisis in school overcrowding; likely to be even worse in future if proposed capital plan adopted

For immediate release:                                     
June 5, 2014 

For more information: 
Leonie Haimson,; 917-435-9329

Nearly half a million NYC students are crammed into severely overcrowded buildings; if capital plan adopted, crisis will be even worse five years from now

Today, Class Size Matters released a comprehensive report on school overcrowding.  Among the findings:  More schools are now overcrowded than in 2006, with 488,438 students enrolled in school buildings at or above 100% target utilization, according to NYC Department of Education figures for 2012-13.  

The situation is especially dire in elementary schools, where according to the DOE Blue Book, 57 percent of students are in over-utilized buildings.  The average utilization rate of elementary schools is 97.4 percent and the median rate is an astonishing 102 percent.   The report is posted here:
 At the same time the administration and most experts agree that the Blue Book formula actually underestimates the actual level of overcrowding in our schools, and a taskforce has been appointed to revamp it.
While there are only at most 38,654 seats in the capital plan, the real need is at least 100,000 seats, since enrollment is projected to increase by 60-70,000 students over the next ten years, and 30,000 seats are needed just to alleviate overcrowding in districts that currently average over 100 percent utilization. The estimate of 100,000 seats does not count the need to expand preK, reduce class size, address neighborhood overcrowding, or eliminate trailers.
Moreover, though the DOE officials have reported that “only” 7158 students are currently housed in trailers, the real figure is likely more than 10,000 students, since they do not count thousands of students housed in TCUs at 47 elementary, middle, and high schools, and District 75 programs.
Finally, even as the proposed capital plan allocates nearly half a billion dollars to remove the trailers, it has not allocated a single cent to replace their seats.  For example, there are 70 TCUs in four districts where not a single new school seat is supposed to be built.
According to attorney Michael A. Rebell, co-counsel in CFE vs. State of New York, “This report provides important data that indicates substantial and continuing violations of children's constitutional rights as articulated by the state's highest court in the CFE litigation."

“This reports reveals just how shockingly overcrowded our public schools are,” said City Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm. “Nearly half (48%) of students citywide are in school buildings at or above 100% utilization, according to the latest DOE data from the 2012-13 school year. While the Department of Education (DOE) has allocated over $500 million to remove trailers, they have not been clear about where they will place these students when the trailers are removed. I call on the DOE to craft a real plan to build or lease more schools to address the issue of overcrowding and to reduce class size.”

Said Wendy Lecker, CFE Project Attorney with the Education Law Center, “Overcrowding plays a major role in depriving New York City public school children of basic educational resources, such as reasonable class size, services for at-risk children, libraries, science labs, art, music and more.   This informative report represents an important step in addressing the critical need for adequate space in New York City public schools."

“There is a huge space squeeze in our schools.  Hundreds of thousands of children are sitting in overcrowded classrooms, without art rooms, science rooms or dedicated spaces for their mandated services.  Thousands more students are sitting in trailers or on waiting lists for Kindergarten.  Yet if this plan is adopted, students are likely to be crammed into even more overcrowded schools and classrooms five years from now – despite the promises of the Mayor to reduce class size and improve the quality of education.  NYC children deserve a real plan to improve these shameful conditions, and for this to happen, DOE must stop fudging the numbers,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

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