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Budget, Education & City Services

Resolution on Capital Plan.

WHEREAS, The New York City Department of Education has proposed a new five-year capital plan which, despite the ongoing crisis of overcrowding and excessive class sizes in our schools, contains only 25,000 new school seats,  40% less than are in the current capital plan; and

WHEREAS, A coalition of elected officials, parents, advocates and the United Federation of Teachers have produced an analysis showing that based on DOE data in the “Blue Book,” at least 166,000 new seats are needed citywide in order to eliminate overcrowding and reduce class sizes to the levels in the city’s state-mandated class size reduction plan; and

WHEREAS, The city’s class size plan, as approved by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) in November 2007, entails an average class size of 20 in grades K-3, and an average of 23 students per class in all other grades by the fall of 2011; and

WHEREAS, The proposed capital plan is not aligned with the city’s class size reduction plan, and in fact is based on capacity figures that assume class sizes of 28 students in 4-8 grades, and 34 students per class in high school; and

WHEREAS, 60-80% of NYC students are in classes that exceed the levels in the city’s state-mandated class size reduction plan and in a recent survey 86% of NYC principals said that they were unable to provide a quality education for their students because of overly large classes, 50% said that overcrowding made it unsafe for students or staff, and many reported giving special services in hallways or closets; and

WHEREAS, According to DOE’s own data, 40% of NYC students attend overcrowded schools; and

WHEREAS, The city has both a moral and a legal obligation to provide the smaller classes that the State’s highest court ruled would be necessary for our children to be provided with their constitutional right to a sound basic education; and

WHEREAS, According to the 2009 Mayor’s preliminary budget analysis done by the Independent Budget office, the percent of city capital funding devoted to schools ranges from 30% in 2005 to 7.6% in 2008 and is at an all time low; and

WHEREAS, Despite the continuing rise in residential building, data drawn from Mayor’s Management Reports since Fiscal Year 1997 show that fewer school seats were created during the first six years of the Bloomberg administration than during the last six years of the Giuliani administration; and

WHEREAS, Many of the new seats created in this administration have resulted not from new schools built or leased, but because of “classroom conversions”– conversions that, in many cases, have been created at the cost of lost art rooms, computer rooms, or other specialty spaces; and

WHEREAS, Charter schools reduce existing school building capacity and consume critical administrative, classroom and specialty spaces and the funds for creating the 166,000 seats necessary to eliminate overcrowding and reduce class size could be obtained by reallocating priorities within the city’s capital plan and redirecting half of the increase in projected payments that are expected to go to charter schools over the next three years; and

WHEREAS, Given the current economic downturn, building more schools would provide a critical stimulus to the city’s economy – especially given the fact that 50% of the funds for school construction are reimbursed by the state and financed by bonds, repaid over thirty years; and

WHEREAS, Improving our schools will ensure a more stable middle class tax base; and

WHEREAS, Eliminating overcrowding and reducing class size should be regarded as a important economic strategy to improve the educational outcomes and future job success of NYC students; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That Community Board Five objects to the proposed five-year capital plan, and urges the Department of Education, the Mayor, and the City Council to significantly expand the number of new seats in the plan to 166,000, in order to provide NYC students with a better chance to learn.

The above resolution passed with a vote of 31 in favor, 0 opposed, 2 abstaining.

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