|Me asking the Mayor about class size in Jackson Heights on Thursday night.|
For other accounts, see news reports of the Mayor's Town hall at ChalkbeatNY and the Daily News.
On Thursday I attended two events -- first in the morning at a briefing on Renewal Schools at City Hall and later that evening, a Town hall meeting in Queens with Mayor de Blasio.
The City Hall briefing consisted of a long power point from Aimee Horowitz, the Executive Superintendent of the Renewal school program and Chris Caruso, Executive Director of Community Schools. For more than an hour we listened to all the various programs and services that are planned, with no mention of reducing class size in either presentation.
She also questioned by whose definition is a class too large or too small, repeating her curious notion that she expressed at the District 2 Town Hall that class sizes could be too small. (As though that would ever be a problem in NYC public schools, when so many students are crammed into classes of 30 or more. The fear of overly small classes also doesn't seem to worry those who send their kids to elite private schools like Exeter, that caps class sizes at 12 students per class.)
When I followed Deb (at 1;22;49), I asked the Mayor the following question:
As you know, smaller classes are parents #1 priority on the DOE’s own surveys. During your campaign you promised to reduce class size to much lower levels and if necessary raise funds to do so, and to expand the school capital plan to provide the space to make this possible.
Yet no funding has been allocated towards class size reduction, class sizes are larger than ever, and last year more the 350,000 students were in classes of 30 or more. School overcrowding has also worsened, and elementary schools capacty on average is a stunning 104% - with more than half of all students attending extremely overcrowded schools.
Your priorities of expanding preK and affordable housing, though terrific goals, will exacerbate school overcrowding, and yet the city cut back on the funds dedicated towards school construction in its ten year capital plan, and the current capital plan will create less than half the seats necessary to address enrollment growth and alleviate current conditions.
My question is this: are you still committed to reducing class size and school overcrowding, and if so, what resources and strategies will you use to accomplish this goal, and when will we see progress? And let me remind you, the city has an $8 billion surplus and the power of eminent domain, which means you can take over any property to build a school.
Finally, will you agree to form a Commission to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the school planning process?
(Take a look at these and let me know if you think I mispoke. The form de Blasio filled out and signed at a Mayoral forum at Murry Bergtraum HS in June 2013 [click on the images to enlarge]:
.@leoniehaimson From de Blasio's 2013 press release: He will create a class size reduction plan" https://t.co/0hvt59CsVC— Michael Powell (@powellnyt) November 13, 2015
He then said that he was proud of his affordable housing program, and claimed that it will not lead to more school overcrowding but will allow families to stay in their neighborhoods. He said he's getting kids out of trailers, and adding reading specialists, and that "we will never give up." He said that he will consider the idea of a Commission to improve school planning, and "let you know."
On the issue of high-stakes testing, de Blasio countered that schools no longer received grades based on test scores; and that the DOE had stopped holding kids back based on test scores (a practice that the state has made illegal.). But then the Mayor added that he didn't support parents opting out of the state exams because "there's a clear federal rule that if there is too much non-participation in tests, it can lead to a reduction in federal funding," a claim that has been roundly disputed, including in the NY Times.