This administration has been warned many times that school overcrowding in NYC was a huge problem and was getting worse, and has done nothing to prevent the crisis now upon us. In fact, the city’s share of capital spending invested in school construction and repair is at least a ten year low.
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
I am a mother whose first child will be entering kindergarten this fall -- my second will enter the following year. I'm writing to you now because I am deeply disturbed by what is -- or more accurately, is not -- happening regarding
You know (or should know) the current situation and its history. P.S. 151, located in District 2 on the
This year, of course, that is no longer feasible -- as former private-school parents are sending their children to public schools to help cut back on expenses, schools throughout
As a result, barely two months ago, P.S. 151 parents were abruptly informed that the lottery was being abolished (this was after many of us had spent months researching and visiting schools in our area, on the assumption that the lottery would be in force). Instead, we were told, there would be an actual P.S. 151 available in the fall. There was just one problem: the DOE had yet to find a site for the school.
Since then, parent organizations from the P.S. 151 zone have met regularly with the DOE to get the ball rolling on a school site in time for the fall. To put it bluntly, we have been appalled by the bureaucratic foot-dragging, lack of focus and high-handed attitude displayed by DOE officials. A few examples:
- Their initial idea was to put entering kindergarteners into
-- side by side with 12-14-year-olds, with no library, play space or other facilities of their own. Later, they came up with a list of 12 other potential sites... but did not visit any of them until a few weeks ago. Robert F. Wagner Middle School
- Currently, the DOE is negotiating with the Archdiocese of New York to lease the building on
formerly occupied by a parochial school, Our Lady of Good Counsel -- but they did not consider speaking with the Archdiocese until one of the parents paved the way for such discussions. East 91st Street
- The DOE has refused to re-open the possibility of using the elementary school building on
which currently houses East 88th Street (whose students come from outside the neighborhood) Richard Green High School . This would be a perfect solution because unlike the other alternatives, it would be permanent -- the children would not have to be moved again in a year or two. But the Department supposedly abandoned the idea in the face of pressure from the high school's parents and the teacher's union. We understand their concerns, but we feel that the DOE should be able to come up with a relocation plan that they can accept, rather than simply backing down.
In sum, given the DOE's past and present conduct, we are very worried that they will not have a viable space ready by the fall, or will wind up warehousing our children in whatever space requires the least effort to set up. And despite their assurance that they will be able to construct a permanent site for the school over the next 2-3 years, we are concerned that they will "forget" their pledge and permanently leave students wherever they are placed in the coming school year. They do not seem to grasp that there are four months until the start of the next school year, and that our children are not objects to be stored in "whatever space is available."
What is particularly galling is that this is all going on as Mayor Bloomberg runs for re-election with education reform as one of his signature issues. Mr. Mayor, you are spending a good chunk of money on TV ads where you tout
Secretary Duncan, I have also addressed this letter to you because of your experience leading a big-city school system and your long commitment to serious educational reform. Would you have tolerated this kind of performance in
My fellow parents and I cannot and will not sit by quietly and allow our children to be victims of bureaucratic negligence, laziness and inertia. We will be rallying next week in front of City Hall, and we will continue to press our case with our elected officials and in the media. We will not rest until the kindergartners of P.S. 151 -- and everywhere in the city -- are assured of a safe, workable space in which to begin their public school education. The three of you have staked your reputations on this promise; it is time to back it up with concrete action.