Sunday, September 24, 2017

How many thousands of school seats were lost during the past decade, how did this contribute to overcrowding and how many went to charter school students?

Last  week Class Size Matters released a new report entitled Seats Gained and Lost in NYC Schools: The Untold Story.  For the first time, this study documented that more than 50,000 NYC public school seats were eliminated during the decade of 2004 to 2013.

These seat losses, mostly because of lapsed leases, the removal of trailers and the elimination of annexes, were identified using data from the annual DOE School Capacity and Utilization Reports, known more familiarly as the Blue Books.

Rather than creating net 100,000 seats during this period, as former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Mayor's Management Report claimed, the real figure was less than half that number — only about 45,000, when seat loss is taken into account.

Moreover, of these net seats, the vast majority were filled by charter school students in public school buildings, with only 2,357 net seats filled by district public school students during this decade.

These findings help explain the worsening overcrowding that has plagued New York City schools, especially in the elementary grades, with the number of overcrowded elementary school buildings increasing by 17 percent and the number of students in these buildings increasing by 29 percent between 2004 and 2012. 

Meanwhile, the total number of students last year in overcrowded school buildings of all kinds was more than 575,000 --- according to the DOE's own "target" methodology.

In fully half of all districts, elementary school buildings lost net capacity during this period.  Of the 19 districts that experience growth in elementary school enrollment, in only three districts did the net new capacity exceed growth: in districts 2, 11, and 22.  If you'd like to see how many seats your district lost during this period, check out the report here or below.

The report also points out several factors that may make seat loss an even more important concern in the future.  This includes the DOE’s plan to accelerate the planned removal of TCUs or trailers, and the fact that there are no funds allocated in the five-year capital plan towards replacing their classrooms.  Moreover, the amount of funding in the capital plan dedicated to replacing lost leases has sharply declined since 2009.

We suggested some  proposals that the DOE could use to stem the loss of seats and to make the process of school planning more transparent and efficient, so that the problem of overcrowding doesn't worsen,  given the boom in residential development throughout the city and the Mayor's focus on increasing the number of affordable and market-rate housing units.

We also urged an end to any further co-locations, which exacerbate overcrowding; and our figures showing that the vast majority of net new seats went to charter school students over this decade provides an important factual counterbalance to the constant demand from the charter school lobby for more space within our already overcrowded school buildings, and the claim that they have been deprived of their fair share of classrooms. 

Unfortunately, very few news outlets carried stories about the report, including those that repeatedly report on the non-newsworthy complaints from the charter lobby every time they hold a press conference or send out a press release.  The Walton Foundation and hedge-funder backed charter including Families for Excellent Schools, Students First, and other astroturf organizations, constantly and erroneously repeat the refrain that charters are unfairly deprived of their fair share of space. Why this lack of interest on the part of NYC reporters?  I could speculate but choose not to.

Instead, please take a look at the report yourselves, and please let me know what you think in the comments below.  thanks!

No comments: