Thursday, March 21, 2019

What the DOE said last night about sending school transfer letters to parents and what the mayor said about reducing class size

Last night the Mayor, the Chancellor and NYC Department of Education officials spoke at a Town hall meeting for Manhattan parent leaders at P.S. 153, Adam Clayton Powell School.  A video of the entire meeting is posted here.  Mayor de Blasio and the Chancellor have scheduled these meetings in all the five boroughs as part of their push for the renewal of Mayoral control.  As de Blasio said last Friday at the Senate hearings on mayoral control and school governance, he knows they have to do a better job listening to parents and they will be trying to do so over the next few weeks.

Among the highlights (or low lights)  of the meeting:

Cheryl Watson- Harris, First Deputy Chancellor of DOE, admitted that they made a mistake sending letters to parents at schools that just made the state list in need of Comprehensive Support.  These letters said their children's schools were among the lowest-performing in the state and informed them they had the right to transfer their children to higher-performing schools. See yesterday's post about this.  Though the DOE claimed in the Principals Weekly this transfer option is required by federal law, that is  untrue.  The transfer option, known as "Public school choice" under the previous law NCLB is not required by either the feds or the state.

Rather than simply saying that sending these letters to parents was wrong, Watson-Harris said the letters went out "prematurely" and that the DOE would "support" any parents  "if their option is to go to another school."

See the video taken by Kaliris Salas-Ramirez at the meeting.

See also the video of Mayor de Blasio's comments below  that while he is aware that class size is the number one concern of parents (the issue has come up at every parent Town Hall meeting this year), he is looking for savings in the DOE budget and he cannot afford to hire more teachers to lower class size.

No one followed up by asking why the Mayor can afford to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on hiring more teachers to expand classes for four year old children and now three year olds,  but not a dime to hire more teachers to lower class size in Kindergarten or any higher grade.

In the above video, the Mayor claimed he is building more schools without any help from the federal government or the state, saying "It's our money." Actually, the state provides matching funds for every dollar the city spends on school construction or repair.

He also claimed that they are "making progress in the here and now" on relieving overcrowding and providing more school space.  The reality is that the new five-year capital plan is so back-loaded  that fifty thousand out of its fifty seven thousand new seats won't be built until 2024 or later - long after the he has left office.

By then our schools will likely be even more overcrowded than ever, due to rezonings and rampant housing development throughout the city, as well as the further expansion of 3K in our elementary schools.  This year they added 3K classes to seventeen schools that were already at 100% or more.

When de Blasio leaves office, his record in each of his two terms in building new school seats will be worse than that of any of Bloomberg's three terms. See below - with data taken from the Mayor's Management Report and the new proposed five-year capital plan.

See also this graph from our report The Impact of PreK on School Overcrowding on the projected timeline for finishing seats in DOE preK projects by year compared to K12 schools in de Blasio's first and second terms.  The contrast is stunning:

One more word about the Mayor's evident bias towards PreK.  A few weeks ago, I wanted to see to which elementary schools the DOE was admitting new 3K, preK and Kindergarten students for next year. Given the lack of transparency at DOE, the only way I could figure out how to do this was by logging into the DOE website, creating imaginary profiles for three young children, and searching to see which schools  had openings.  I never completed the application because I didn't want to disrupt or disturb the enrollment process at these schools.

Since then, I have received five emails from DOE urging me to finish my PreK application process for my imaginary three-year old and four-year old children, as well as a personal phone call this morning.  I have yet to receive a single email or call about completing the application process for my imaginary Kindergarten child.

All in all, the Mayor's focus on expanding PreK is so extreme that he has reneged on his responsibility to improve the learning conditions of NYC children once they turn five. 


Jane said...

Thanks so much for sharing such valuable information. I am very depressed by the current state of the educational system and the attitude of our government towards it. I wonder I am the only one here, for whom it is obvious that the government has a clear intention to destroy the current education system? First, the school does not have enough places, then there is no budget for repairs... At this rate, federal vacancies will soon end and you will have to delete usajobs account and hire in the private sector.
A logical question arises, why to bother to have children at all if there are not enough school seats for them.

Alex said...

This reminds me of widespread problems with the computer-based state testing that occurred recently. And of “Die Hard 4”, where the same total infrastructure collapse was shown, including a complete failure of the Internet, turning off traffic lights and mobile phones. Although there was another terrorist attack there, and here we are seeing system overload, due to the fact that too much data was attempted to be saved simultaneously. It is good that FastEssay or any writing service support does not need to be loaded into this system, otherwise it would break not only during the exam. The government should be ashamed of such an infrastructure. And for having forced 10-year-old students to take tests during the whole day. Seriously, what century are we living in? I would not be surprised if the era of Windows 3.1 will return soon.