Rally October 3

Citywide Coalition of Elected Officials, Parents, Educators and Community Groups Demand “A Better Capital Plan” At City Hall Rally

Demonstration precedes City Council hearing on school overcrowding and class size reduction

October 3, 2008 (New York, NY) — A broad coalition of elected officials, parents, educators, advocates and community groups – including Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, the United Federation of Teachers, Class Size Matters, the NAACP, the Hispanic Federation, the Alliance for Quality Education, the Center for Arts Education, ACORN, Advocates for Children and the New York City Central Labor Council – called today for “A Better Capital Plan” for new school construction.

City statistics show that 38 percent of New York City public school students attend schools in buildings that are overcrowded and more than half a million are in classrooms that exceed the class-size targets in the state-mandated class size reduction plan. Recent reports by the Manhattan Borough President, the City Comptroller, the United Federation of Teachers, and Class Size Matters, have demonstrated the flaws in the City’s current planning process for schools and its failure to plan ahead for growth.

The city’s new five-year capital plan for school construction is scheduled to be proposed November 3, 2008 by the Department of Education (DOE) and the School Construction Authority (SCA). The campaign for “A Better Capital Plan” is calling on the city to:

The rally preceded a City Council oversight hearing on school overcrowding, held jointly by the City Council Education Committee, chaired by Robert Jackson, and the Land Use Committee’s Public Siting Subcommittee, chaired by Jessica Lappin. Councilmember Lappin and Borough President Stringer have introduced a resolution in the City Council calling on the city to implement these reforms.

Borough President Stringer, whose office has produced two reports on the effect of new residential construction on school overcrowding in Manhattan, said , “If we want parents – and their employers – to continue investing their futures in New York City, this new capital plan must propose enough new school seats to serve our schoolchildren well into the future. Even though we are entering difficult financial times, we cannot afford to walk away from our commitment to children and schools.”

Participants in the Friday morning rally delivered to the Mayor’s office a letter signed by more than 75 elected officials, community and parent groups as part of the “A Better Capital Plan” campaign. The coalition also delivered thousands of postcards to the Mayor and Chancellor, signed by parents all over the city, supporting the reforms.

UFT President Randi Weingarten said, “The upcoming five-year capital plan presents a huge opportunity for a public/private partnership to help address the school overcrowding crisis, especially if mayoral control of the school system is fully utilized. City Hall oversees the various city agencies involved in school construction and has access to a host of public and private entities. The administration could ensure that the city’s capital plan is aligned with class size averages mandated by the state.”

Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr. said, “Recently my office conducted a survey of over 200 Bronx School’s where the following startling statistics were revealed: Of the schools surveyed, 23% reported not having a gymnasium, 15% reported not having libraries, 35% reported not having computer labs, 41% reported not having science labs, 58% reported not having music rooms, and 22% reported not having auditoriums. These statistics are shocking and must serve as continued motivation for all to insure that the next Capital Plan addresses the issues of facility improvements as well as overcrowding in the Bronx and throughout the city. The Bronx has the largest share of school age children in the city and will continue to have the largest share of school age children until 2030 so proper future planning is of the utmost importance.”

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said, “Manhattan has 13% of New York’s public school students but received only 5% of the funds in the city’s last capital plan. Our communities are experiencing a huge growth in school-age children, our schools are seriously overcrowded, and we’re being forced to sacrifice class size and important programs as a direct result of the Department of Education’s failure to plan. DOE has to do a lot better this time — and provide Manhattan with the capital funds to build schools in neighborhoods where they are most needed.”

Congressman Jerrold Nadler said, “Up and down my district, and particularly in Lower Manhattan and the Upper West Side, government is failing in its basic responsibility to provide our kids the room to learn. We must implement a better capital plan that creates more seats, plans responsibly for the future and reclaims school space for art, music and so many other activities that make up a truly well-rounded education. New York City kids deserve nothing less.”

Congressman Charles Rangel said, “The future of this city and of this country depends on the attention and resources that our youth receive in the classroom. We can make huge strides in accomplishing that goal by unveiling a Five-Year Capital Plan that is truly reflective of the kind of educational investment that our children need to receive if they are going to compete in our increasingly global world.”

Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez said, “Overcrowding in our schools is taking away from the quality education our children deserve. The five-year capital plan for New York City schools must lay out a realistic solution to address current classroom size, and look forward to prepare for neighborhood growth. If we want a bright future for New York City, we must start with a commitment to our youngest residents.”

State Senator Tom Duane said, “I am hopeful that DOE, working with parents, educators, advocates and elected officials will develop a capital plan that meets the needs of our city’s growing population. By addressing existing overcrowding, planning at the neighborhood level, and reevaluating capacity estimates, DOE can create new public school space where we need it the most to provide quality education to our students today and in the future.”

State Senator Liz Krueger said, “Reasonable class sizes are fundamental to a child’s ability to learn and grow in school. The new five-year capital plan must address the school overcrowding that is currently stymieing our children’s education and allow for future increases in student enrollment. Doing this will help us reach further toward our goal of having the best school system in the country.”

State Senator Eric Schneiderman said, “In the face of slumping tax revenues from Wall Street, it would be easy to conclude that we can’t afford to honestly assess and fix the overcrowding crisis in our schools right now. On the contrary, we can’t afford to wait. Families will leave the city and property tax revenues will plummet if we don’t plan and invest now in improving our public schools, starting with smaller class sizes.”

Assembly Member Jonathan L. Bing said, “As the Department of Education proposes the five-year capital plan, we must encourage planning at the neighborhood level. This process will best help alleviate overcrowding in areas such as the Upper East Side, where five of the seven schools are currently overcrowded.”

Assembly Member Herman D. Farrell Jr. said, “Everyone knows, and it’s been proven, that smaller class sizes lead to more successful students.”

Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick said, “The school overcrowding crisis is not new but what would be new is a capital plan that aggressively utilizes neighborhood specific information in order to reduce class size and improve educational outcomes.”

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh said, “Our children deserve access to a world class education. Unfortunately, across the city, overcrowding is robbing them of that opportunity. In too many schools we’re seeing overcrowded classrooms, closed art rooms and children eating lunch in shifts beginning at 10:30 in the morning.”

Assembly Member Micah Kellner said, “The Administration must accept that the explosion in construction of luxury buildings with 2 and 3 bedroom apartments is aimed at and attracts young families to our neighborhoods. These young families assume that there will be space in our public schools for their children. The DOE can simply no longer deny that we need a new elementary school to keep up with all the new kids on the Upper East Side.”

Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal said, “The DOE must incorporate plans for new schools in parts of District 3 or we will have a crisis situation on the Upper West Side. It’s unacceptable that the babies of today will have nowhere to go when they get to be school-age.”

City Council Member Gale A. Brewer said, “Capital Funds should be used for small class size and meeting the demand for seats in newly over-developed areas. In my school district not accounting for new housing development has created tension, over crowding and poor planning. We need ABC.”

City Council Member Inez E. Dickens said, “We must advocate. We must leave no stone unturned in our collective efforts to provide the very best educational opportunities for our children.”

City Council Member Robert Jackson said, “Overcrowding is a triple threat because this one problem makes for unsafe conditions, puts too many students with one teacher and wipes out art, music and science rooms. The Chancellor and Mayor have both an obligation and an opportunity to fix the way they report and plan to prevent overcrowding. I urge them to adopt A Better Capital plan.”

City Council Member Jessica Lappin said, New York’s construction boom has been a bust for our kids. This morning, 38 percent of New York City public school students walked into an overcrowded building. In Manhattan, our schools are bursting at the seams and sacrificing art rooms, gyms, and science labs to make space. Even that isn’t enough to solve the problem. We are in crisis mode and need emergency measures to help our students now. We need a new capital plan that deals seriously and honestly with our future.”

City Council Member David Yassky said, “In my District in Brooklyn, we’ve seen over 3000 new units of housing without any serious plan to accommodate new schoolchildren. DOE still won’t give us a middle school in Downtown Brooklyn, but if they did, it would already be overcrowded. Today, there are classrooms in my district that feel like the 4 train at rush hour. We’ve got to start planning for these new seats today so that we have them for our kids tomorrow.”

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director for Class Size Matters, said, “All over the city, kids are sitting in overstuffed classrooms of 25, 30 or more. If we really cared about their futures — and of this city — the Mayor and the Chancellor must propose a better capital plan, one that provides students with a quality education by eliminating overcrowding and reducing class size. Over the course of the last six years, more than 100,000 seats have been created in new sports stadiums, with less than half that number in new schools. The time for excuses and for spinning statistics is long past. The state law requires the city to produce a capital plan with room for smaller classes in all grades; more importantly, it is our ethical obligation to do so.”

Doug Israel, Director of Research and Policy for The Center for Arts Education, said, “Due to persistent overcrowding in many of the city’s public schools we’re seeing a pronounced loss of spaces dedicated for arts learning. As the city tackles overcrowding it imperative that that we reclaim these spaces to ensure our city’s school children are getting the well-rounded education they deserve.”

Kim Sweet, Executive Director for Advocates for Children, said, “School overcrowding is a problem that threatens access to a quality education for students throughout the city. The effect is quite stark for students with disabilities, who end up receiving services like occupational therapy or speech in hallways or cramped, noisy rooms.”

Ed Ott, Executive Director for New York City Central Labor Council, said, “New and modernized schools to relieve classroom overcrowding are urgently needed for the children of this city, and the construction jobs it would stimulate will be a positive boost for the city’s economy.”

Helen Rosenthal, Chair of Community Board 7, said, “The DOE Capital Plan does not take into account all the new buildings that have brought new students into the public school system. Over 6,000 new apartments have been added on the upper west side since 2000. As our neighborhoods inevitably change, we must take into account the impact on all of our infrastructure, including schools, sanitation and traffic.”

Brad Hoylman, Chair of Community Board 2 in Manhattan, said, “The neighborhoods of the West Side of Manhattan strongly need a new school capital plan that will effectively address the population boom we’ve all witnessed in the last several years. The time to act is now.”

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