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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Fri, Jun 19, 2009

City Council Readies for School Capital Plan Vote; CFE Calls for Plan Focused on Reducing Chronic Overcrowding

Recent CFE Report Showed almost Half—48%-- of NYC Students in Overcrowded School or School with a Temporary Structure

Today, as the City Council is set to vote on the proposed School Capital plan for 2010-2014, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) expressed serious concerns about the plan’s ability to prioritize chronic overcrowding, meet new class size reduction targets, or target its efforts at the City’s neediest schools.

“The City Council must work with the Mayor and the Department of Education to re-focus the capital plan so that it tackles the problems most critical to New York City students. With almost half of our students in overcrowded schools, we need a specific plan to eliminate the most egregious overcrowding, meet the CFE class size targets through building of new schools or other strategies, and create more specialty rooms. These solutions need to be targeted at our lowest performing schools serving high need students,” said Geri D. Palast, Executive Director, Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

A recent CFE report, MAXED OUT: New York City School Overcrowding Crisis (, showed that approximately 48% of the 1,042,078 students enrolled in the city’s public schools in 2006-07 attended schools that were either overcrowded or had associated temporary structures based on data available in the 2006-07 ECU Report.

“Maxed Out made it clear that overcrowding is a sustained crisis, not a fleeting problem,” said Helaine Doran, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity’s Deputy Director, who directed the report. “Based on our findings, we showed that by leveraging the 2010-2014 capital plan, the DOE could combat overcrowding in the highest priority schools.”

CFE’s Maxed Out report identified 51 highest priority schools that had utilization rates greater than 150%; were SINI/SRAP schools and overcrowded with utilization rates greater than 125%; or were SINI/SRAP schools, overcrowded, and had temporary structures. 31 of these 51 schools have been overcrowded for more than a decade. CFE also called on the DOE to develop a long-term strategy to eliminate overcrowding, including releasing an annual written report for public review.

The Court of Appeals’ decisions in CFE v State of New York specifically cited overcrowding as a deficiency in schools with struggling students, and stated that the problem of overcrowding is inseparable from excessive class size.

CFE also recommended today the DOE enumerate clearer, data-driven priorities, instead of vague goals. Specifically, they called for a commitment to modify the DOE’s annual Enrollment—Capacity—Utilization Report (ECU) to better reflect actual conditions on the ground, as well as the new class size reduction targets from the 2007 Education Reform Budget and Reform Act, which implements the CFE litigation resolution.

“The first step to better utilizing the Capital Plan to tackle these issues critical to student learning is to accurately collect data. The DOE’s ECU reports are only as good as the data they rely on— and currently undercounting leaves us without a full picture, like a real count of specialized spaces that have become classrooms. At the same time, to accurately measure class size progress, the benchmark needs to be the new CFE targets, not outdated ones,” added Palast.

“We recommend that the City Council condition approval of the capital plan on agreement to address these reporting and overcrowding issues and that they appoint a Commission to investigate and make recommendations to the Mayor, the Speaker of the City Council, the Chancellor, and the Panel for Educational Policy for adoption as part of the November capital plan amendment process,” said Doran.

Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE Litigation CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the state’s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >