Bronx children demand an equal education

Children gather to express their feelings during a Class Size Matters event. Courtesy of Leonie Haimson

It’s too little, too late for seats being added to schools throughout the Bronx and New York City.

The current Capital Plan, formed by the Department of Education, along with approval by the mayor and city council, recently claimed that they have added 11, 471 of 63,000 current classroom seats in 18 new buildings, and have come within 88% of their original goals.

Class Size Matters, a non-profit organization created in 2001 for concerned parents and citizens, lashed out against the release, explaining the problems with the current Capital Plan.

The plan, originally extended from 2004 to 2009, had three specific goals; eliminate overcrowding in any schools that were over 100% utilized, get rid of all the transporters and trailers meant for temporary class rooms, and reduce class sizes in all schools to 20 students kindergarten to third grade and 23 students fourth grade through high school.

“At the rate they are changing and reducing classes,” reflected Leonie Haimson, executive director for Class Size Matters, “I think it would take about 10 years to get those levels in elementary schools and 30 years in high school, if enrollment continues to decline.”

According to New York State law a class size reduction plan must be submitted to the state and aligned with the capital plan.

Now another 116,000 seats will be added by the year 2012, according to the DOE.

“The plan has not even come close to accomplishing any of these current goals,” explains Haimson, “the next capital plan not only has to accomplish those, but abide by the laws.”

Once again the plans overlook the vast increase in housing development in the surrounding regions, although enrollment may seem to be declining now, as new buildings are built a surge of student enrollment may occur.

“They are not applying state law and we are going to have to form a city wide campaign to urge them to do a new capital plan,” stated Haimson.

The 2004 Capital Plan included $4.7 billion to build new schools, $3.3 billion to restructure current space, and $5.1 billion invested in existing assets, yet this still falls gravely short of what New York City needs.

Within the Bronx 1,930 seats were added by renovating space to create I.S./H.S. 362, Icahn Charter School, and P.S. 69 Annex.

“We really would love to get parents of the Bronx involved,” expressed Haimson, who believes that only as a united front will a difference be made.

For more information on Class Size Matters visit www.classsizematters.org.

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