Overcrowding Update: Public Advocate, Letitia James & Class Size Matters Urge DOE to Expand Capital Plan

The City Council of New York released their Report on the Fiscal Year 2015 Executive Budget for the Department of Education and School Construction Authority on June 3rd.  Within it, the Five-Year Capital Plan for Fiscal 2015-2019 totaling $12.8 billion dollars, sets aside $4.4 billion for the construction of 38,754 new school seats (aka, “capacity”).

In response, Public Advocate, Letitia James and Class Size Matters, a nonprofit, nonpartisan clearinghouse for information on the proven benefits of smaller classes, says the DOE’s calculation won’t solve the problem, not by half.   Their June 4th joint letter to Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Farina, recommends the DOE double the number of seats in the capital plan. They urgently request the public to call their Councilmembers and to ask they sign onto the letter.  Brooklyn Heights’ Councilmember, Steve Levin’s office may be reached by calling 718-875-5200. Find your Councilmember HERE.

Ms. James and Class Size Matters’ Executive Director, Leonie Haimson cite Comptroller, Scott Stringer’s 2014 audit, DOE Efforts to Alleviate Overcrowding in School Buildings, which illustrates that at least one-third of NYC public schools are overcrowded and at least a third of elementary schools are at 138% capacity.  Class Size Matters’ June 2014 report, Space Crunch in NYC Public Schools, also serves as basis for much of the letter’s argument. The letter continues, “..there is a widespread consensus that the DOE’s formula for estimating school utilization levels in the Blue Book underestimates the actual level of overcrowding and the space needed to provide a sound basic and legal education. Though a working group appointed by the Chancellor made proposals to improve the accuracy of this formula in December, their recommendations still have not been released. Therefore, the City continues to make crucial decisions on co-locations, and now the capital plan based on inaccurate data.”  They stress that Mayor De Blasio’s “ambitious” ten-year plan to add 160,000 market-rate housing units, on top of 200,000 affordable units will add to an already growing problem.  The Class Size Matters’ fact sheet offers additional details and a complete list of recommendations to the DOE.

As previously reported, overcrowding came home to roost in March when fifty children zoned for P.S. 8 were wait-listed for Kindergarten.  The most recent blog post from Downtown Brooklyn School Solutions, “Is Overcrowding Inevitable in Our Area Schools?” highlights that a report included in a recent law-suit meant to halt residential development in Brooklyn Bridge Park has revealed, “according to the DOE’s own numbers, ALL of the elementary schools in District 13 sub-district 2 (which extends from Brooklyn Heights into Clinton Hill) will be at 140% capacity in just 3 years!”  The group has been sounding the alarm for more school capacity for years and points to the elephant in the room, “[the] DOE (as far as we know) is doing nothing about a problem that clearly exists in black in white in their own population growth projections!?!”

The City Council is expected to vote on the Capital Plan before the end of June.  Thanks to Senator Daniel Squadron, the School Construction Authority (SCA) is now finally required by law to collect population data and incorporate it into the agency’s five-year educational facilities capital plan.  But given the DOE’s track record, this reporter has to ask, “Is the DOE following the letter of this law?  Has the DOE incorporated real-time birth records and building permit data into this proposed Capital Plan?”  Ask your Councilmember.  The future and quality of our children’s education may depend on it.



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  • Resident

    There are plenty of open seats within walking distance of PS 8. There is no nwe’d for a new school. The statistics just aren’t there in this City. In fact, we need to close more schools and open additional smaller schools.

  • Reggie

    “Public Advocate, (sic) Letitia James and Class Size Matters … says (sic) the DOE’s calculation won’t solve the problem, not by half. Their June 4th joint letter … recommends the DOE double the number of seats in the capital plan.” Does the letter state where to find the additional funds?

  • AnonyMom

    The article has links to the Class Size Matters fact sheet and website. The city was willing to spend 1.8B dollars on an IT contract that was later cancelled because the vendor was found to be corrupt. There’s your funding.

  • AnonyMom

    This is not specifically about PS8. But, yes. There are seats at 307 and 287. For. Now. But all one has to do is look at the data collected by Downtown Brooklyn Schools. What happens when the new buildings go up at Pier 6? What about all the buildings that are about to open and the constant construction in Dumbo? When Downtown Brooklyn was rezoned in 2004 for commercial projects it
    allowed for residential development. Guess what? Nothing but
    residential buildings went in. Those projects are about to come to
    fruition. The DOE has not accounted for those projects and did not build a school. D13 schools (307 and 287) will all be overcrowded within the time frame of this capital plan if nothing is done to expand it. But, more importantly the city’s underfunding of public school capacity is a systemic problem and not specific to PS8 or Downtown Brooklyn. They consistently and by their own admission underestimate the number of seats needed citywide. It is so bad that Daniel Squadron had to pass a law that requires the DOE and SCA use real-time data (birth records and building permits). If the City Council doesn’t get this right, right now-there is no immediate or easy fix.

  • Guest
  • Reggie

    The IT contract was canceled because the vendor was implicated in a kickback scheme, not because the IT upgrades were deemed unnecessary. Are you (and the public advocate and Class Size Matters) saying, ‘Don’t do that work at all; new classrooms are much more critical’? Also, if the city were to double what is estimated to cost $4.4M, don’t you need to come up with more cash? Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favor of more public schools. I just find this request a little half-baked.

  • Andrew Porter

    I don’t have kids, but I know how important getting kids into nearby schools can be. Over the decades, I’ve had many wonderful neighbors move elsewhere because there aren’t any schools they can afford, or want their kids to go to. Less stress on neighbors means a happier neighborhood in general. I firmly believe in the pursuit of happiness for BH parents!

  • Willow Street Watch

    If anyone stands back from the morass, all this is truly amazing….here we have a flock of I want it all well heeled yuppies who want kids but do not want to pay for private tuition. They already handed that money to the co op board or their landlord. So now they want the taxpayer to fund their puppies’ progress.

    The public schools are having funding problems. Sure, because all this is happening very near the end of a debt cycle. Every state and most municipalities are drowning in debt. And no one wants to take any kind of even a modest haircut for education, elder care or anything…

    Here’s an idea: why can’t we use some of the idle space in the casino for classrooms…?

    Here’s a second idea: why can’t a lot of these kids be HOME SCHOOLED
    Wait a minute someone’s knocking on my door..you say you’re a SWAT team from DHS? And you dont need a warrent? Hmmm, I wonder what brought that on?

  • Andrew Porter

    Yes, with home schooling we don’t have to teach them that evolution nonsense, or that the Earth wasn’t created 8,000 years ago. And the nanny can do it, too!

  • Willow Street Watch

    I thought the mention of any schooling not controlled by the education establishment/lobby/elites would jar one of you into spewing your vitrol…it worked. By the way, home schooled kids generally test higher and have far lower drug and criminal histories by age 20.

    Now, what does everyone think of my casino idea? (Dozier put down that gun! Please!)

    More importantly, my observations of well heeled types who want to throw their darlings education costs on the taxpayers, well that stands!

  • gatornyc

    WSW, you don’t think that your comment regarding “well heeled types who want to throw their darlings education costs on the taxpayers” is vitriolic?

    Well heeled types pay taxes just like everyone else and are entitled to the benefit of those taxes — a good public education — just like everyone else. What you are really saying is that the well heeled types should fund everyone else’s education and send their own kids to private school at an additional expense. Where’s the reason and logic in that? Under your theory well heeled types should pay for their own private police and fire department because they can afford it.

  • ColumbiaHeightster

    The money handed to landlords INCLUDES taxes. Trust me, landlords are not coming out of pocket to pay property (i.e., school) taxes. I assure you that the cost of property taxes gets passed through to their tenants in the form of monthly rent. I pay steep rent here, which covers my landlord’s taxes. My child should be gaining the benefit of that. It is a reasonable expectation that good public schooling is one of those benefits. Unfortunately, the reality now is that good public schooling is NOT one of those benefits in our community. We will be one of the families squeezed out within 2 years, together with Andrew Porter’s former neighbors. As much as I love this neighborhood, getting my child a first rate public education is priority #1 for us, as I’m sure it is for so many young parents in our situation.

  • gc

    The money includes taxes so long as you’re not in one of the many tax abated properties all over the area. That said, I totally agree that good public schooling should be a right, not a privilege.

  • ColumbiaHeightster

    Good point.

  • stuart

    Did they finally fire the principal who got the school an “F” and then a “D”? The BHA defended him because he was a St Ann’s boy or something….so typical.

  • Willow Street Watch

    The last few comments are the typical blizzard of arguments which appear to those on the social and more importantly the understanding level they are on to be true and logical. But the higher realities escape them. First of all these are individuals with distorted lives living in a severely distorted fragment of what used to be western civilization. Like fish unaware they wet, they don’t understand where they’re are.

    First of all, many of the families caught up in this are people who are trying to construct a family life on a flawed foundation. Both the economics and the (dis)functional state of society would stop almost any normal American of prior generations from starting a family.
    As mentioned above, the huge reality is the moment in the debt cycle we are now in, making stable, workable municipal government at best very difficult. No one in the creditor community wants to take a haircut do they? So a gaggle of shortsighted self absorbed yuppie types can cry they pay taxes. Sure, guess where your taxes went…to debt service. And the rest to social programs and waste. Now you want to cry for more access to schools? This is like a cancer victim who ignores rising marker tests for years! And now wants to complain about his or her symptoms….(even if the funds appear for better education, what are you doing? Exposing your children to the “culture” of john Dewey and the Frankfurt school? Yuppies are real geniuses)

  • ShinyNewHandle

    Why, stuart, you sound as if you go there!

  • ColumbiaHeightster

    ^ UGH. Not responding to this. Rather, a question to the blog administrator(s) – is there any way to have a meaningful community dialogue, like the one we were having, without these posts repeatedly getting highjacked by this poster (WSW)? I’m all in favor of free speech, but isn’t the point of this blog to foster community discussion and help our neighbors through productive discourse? Every time I’ve come to this site lately, formerly productive conversation have completely been derailed by these offensive and nonsensical posts that completely take over the thread, steering it far away from its origination. This post for example gave rise to a meaningful conversation among concerned parents. It quickly disintegrated into a personal rant against yuppies. Is there a thumbs-down system that can result in the deletion of a post? If this is what the BHB has “evolved” into, I think a lot of folks, myself included, are going to lose interest. Thanks.

  • Andrew Porter

    You want to keep on topic, maybe?

  • Willow Street Watch

    Just a quick note..I wondered if I probed some of the actual undrr lying causes of the mounting education crisis in the city, someone would move for censorship. The point of all of the above is that we will never be able to deliver quality education unless we examine the causes and real extent of our budget woes. Second much of what is going wrong is in the area of social attitudes and behaviors. Then there are the origins of the decline in education quality as opposed to access and to understand and correct this we have to examine what schools of social change have delivered us to this point.

    The only responsible approach is to deal with the causes of problems. If means uncomfortable examinations of ourselves, we need to do that. Our children are worth that. Protesting surface conditions, only, is not a responsible citizenship.

    We need to examine how did we get to this point and what do we do to correct the situation. We also need to examine possible alterna-
    gives which may make sense.