At a town hall meeting in Queens with the Mayor and Chancellor, Sabina pointed out that for many years, activists have had a plan for the large DOE building that is now used for offices to be used for integrated elementary, middle and high schools that would include kids both from Queensbridge public housing, the largest housing project in the city, and the rapidly developing, Long Island City section of the district. Neighborhood activists wanted the large DOE building to also incorporate a job training and community center as well. But the Mayor responded to Sabina's question by refusing to take the DOE building out of the deal (See the video here , at about 1 hour, 11 minutes in).
Please send a message now to the new City Charter Revision Commission, urging them to improve the school planning process, so that these Amazon-like deals that ignore the need for schools don't happen in the future -- and ensure that enough new school space is built along with new development and not years after, contributing to even worse overcrowding. CECs should be involved in the development process along with Community Boards, and new schools should be required wherever they are already over-utilized or likely to become so in the future.
Right before Sabina spoke up, another parent named Anna Maria Leon spoke in Spanish about the need for DOE to reduce class size without making schools reduce their budget (at 46 minutes in). (Right now the so-called Fair Student funding system is tied to enrollment, so that when principals try to keep class sizes low, they have to sacrifice needed funding. ) While translating, Carranza left out the part about class size but instead said her comment was about school overcrowding , which is a related but different issue.
De Blasio responded that overcrowding was a "central concern" that he hears all over the city and claimed he is putting billions of dollars into new school space, eliminating trailers, and increasing boosting the number of schools that receive 100% of the Fair Student Funding formula. He did not address the issue of class size. He called on Lorraine Grillo in from the School Construction Authority, who announced 20,000 new seats will be created for Queens in the new proposed 2020-2024 five-year capital plan. What she didn't reveal is how only a small fraction of that number --about 7,700 seats -- will be completed during those five years.
Immediately following, (at 53 minutes in), Deb Alexander of CEC 30 talked about how parents don't feel they are included in DOE decision-making. Her CEC and other CECs pass resolutions with no response whatsoever from the DOE. Another example, she said, of how parents are left out is that no CEC member was invited to be part of the city's advisory commission on the Amazon project. De Blasio said they will create a new process so that the DOE responds in some way to CEC resolutions (after five years of failing to do so!) and will now appoint a CEC member to that commission.
At 59 minutes in, Nancy Northrup, a Queens parent and former President of the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Counsel, talked about need for more high school seats for Queens. In response, Carranza mentioned he has new demographic information about enrollment trends, he would share.
He added that he's worked in five different states and in all of them, in a great disservice was done to high school students because of the small schools movement. You can't have a comprehensive high school experience in a small school, he said. He revealed he will be considering more school mergers in future and include CECs in that conversation.
Later, in response to another comment, Carranza said that if and when the DOE receives the $1.3 billion they're owed from the state, as a result of the CFE lawsuit, they will be able to add more air conditioners, sports teams and extra-curricular activities, with no mention of the need to reduce class size -- which was the main issue in the CFE case. The Mayor's priority for these funds, as is well-known, will be to use them to further expand 3K.
All in all, the comments of the Mayor and Chancellor at this Town Hall meeting reveal how little they recognize the need for aggressive action on school overcrowding and class size.
Again, please send a message now to the new City Charter Revision Commission, urging them to ensure that sufficient new schools are built along with housing and not years later. CECs should be involved in the advisory process, and new schools should be required where ever they are already overcrowded or likely to become so in the future.
A letter we sent the Commission late last month about this is below, signed onto by elected officials and many parent leaders from all over the city. Thanks!