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Class sizes to rise further next year, and what can be done about an administration out of control

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  • Leonie Haimson
    Welcome back to a busy spring. Last week, it was revealed that there are hundreds of students on wait lists for Kindergarten for next fall at their
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 23, 2009

    Welcome back to a busy spring. 

    Last week, it was revealed that there are hundreds of students on wait lists for Kindergarten for next fall at their neighborhood schools, and more than 3,000 additional Kindergarten students who will be flooding our schools due the closing of day care centers – which will mean class sizes increasing to 25 in Kindergarten throughout the city – the contractual maximum – and at least 500 more Kindergarten students who will have to be bused to schools outside their zonesSee articles about waiting lists in Chelsea, Upper East side, and Greenwich village –– and about the increases in class size expected throughout the city: City struggling to find room in kindergarten for 3000 kids and NYC Kindergarten Crunch Overcrowding Schools.

    Rather than reducing class size, as the state has mandated, the administration plans to further increase class size next year, while essentially eliminating the whole notion that children have the right to attend their neighborhood schools.  Meanwhile, they also plan to  provide 100,000 seats for charter school students by 2012 , while allowing these schools to cap class size and enrollment at far lower levels.  This radical expansion of charters will necessitate taking away even more space from our regular public schools, since the city plans to build only 25,000 new school seats by 2014.

    As is becoming increasingly clear, this is an administration out of control, without any recognition that they are subject to law, the legitimate concerns of parents as regards class size or overcrowding, or community input. There is an article in today’s Times about the impotence of the current Panel for Educational Policy, dominated by puppets of the Mayor: Schools Panel Is No Threat to the Mayor's Grip.  As the Deputy Mayor Walcott is quoted, ““We don’t want to create all these layers of checks and balances.”

    What can we do?


    The system of governance that currently reigns – essentially one of Mayoral dictatorship– is up for reconsideration by the State legislature in June.  Class Size Matters is part of the Parent Commission that has produced a set of comprehensive recommendations to ensure that parents have a real voice in how our schools are run. We propose that there should be a real Board of Education, answerable to the public, and composed of a majority of elected parent members, who would work in partnership with Mayoral appointees and other board members to create a school system run for the benefit of all NYC children. Our full report is posted on our website here; a summary of our recommendations, along with an analysis of six myths of mayoral control is attached.


    1. If you agree that parents should have a real input into how our schools are run, sign our petition here.


    1. Also, come to a Town hall meeting on school governance, co-sponsored by the Parent Commission, along w/ PA Betsy Gotbaum and AM Linda Rosenthal, on Thursday, April 30, at 6 PM at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, at 7 West 83rd Street . 


    1. Ask your PA, your CEC, Community Board, or other parent group to pass a resolution in support of our proposals – as the Stuyvesant PA did unanimously on Tuesday night   The full resolution they approved is below – but of course, you should feel free to shorten it or revise it in any way that you feel fit.  In any case, let me know if you are considering such a proposal, want more info, and/or send me a copy when it is passed. 


    Time is of the essence!  We only have a few short weeks that will determine the future of our schools for years to come.


    And please forward this message to others who care.




    Leonie Haimson
    Executive Director
    Class Size Matters
    124 Waverly Pl.
    New York , NY 10011



    Please make a tax-deductible contribution to Class Size Matters now!





    (passed unanimously by the Stuyvesant HS PA on Tuesday, April 21, 2009)



    Whereas Mayoral control was based in large part on a promise of greater accountability, yet there is less accountability than before, with many state and city laws that the New York City Department of Education routinely violates; and a glaring lack of transparency, with the Mayor and Chancellor acting as if they are accountable to no one other than themselves;


    Whereas the voices of parents, community members and other stakeholder groups have been consistently shut out;


    Whereas there is need for enhanced checks and balances, to ensure that educational decisions, policies, and outcomes are improved:


    Whereas the roles and responsibilities of the Community School Districts have been undermined, and instead of Superintendents supporting the schools in their districts, and responding to parent needs, they have been mandated to spent at least 90% of their time coaching schools outside their districts on test scores;


    Whereas the input of Community Education Councils has been ignored on a wide range of educational issues, and there has been little or no consultation when it comes to the opening and closing of schools in their districts;


    Whereas the administration has attempted to eviscerate the authority of School leadership teams, consisting of half parents, half staff, to develop Comprehensive Education Plans and school-based budgets;


    Whereas the New York City public school system is the largest provider of special education and related services in the nation, serving nearly 181,000 children, and yet there is an incoherent management structure, with more than 18 distinct entities in addition to District 75 within DOE, each reporting to a different supervisor and each responsible for providing a different aspect of special education;


    Whereas, there is insufficient representation of parents of children with disabilities on the Panel on Education Policy and Citywide Education Councils;  


    Whereas, the repeated reorganizations under mayoral control have led to longer delays for initial evaluations and the provision of special services as well as extremely low rates of achievement and lower graduation rates for children with disabilities than in any other part of the state;


    Whereas, through a variety of governance structures and chancellors over the last 40 years, little has changed for the majority of students, who are primarily low-income children of color, and there should be an explicit statement of what education is intended to accomplish, that would codify in law a shared mission with core principles, primary goals, and a policy framework that should be respected and upheld by whomever is governing the system;


    Be it resolved, that [your organization name here] endorses the principles, goals, and proposals of the Parent Commission, to create a governance system distinguished by an educational partnership between the Mayor, the Chancellor, and parents, who together would endeavor strive toward consensus in the effort to improve our schools;


    Be it resolved that we support the establishment of a more independent and responsive Board of Education, with the majority made up of parents elected by Community Education Councils, three members appointed by the Mayor, one by the City Council and one by the Public Advocate; and four additional members chosen collaboratively by the Board itself, to fill a need for expertise in specific policy areas;


    Be it resolved that the Chancellor should be chosen by the Mayor from three candidates selected by the Board, in a similar collaborative process, and that the Chancellor should be required to be an educator with at least three years experience as both a teacher and a principal, with no waivers allowed;


    Be it resolved that like all other governmental agencies, the policies of the Board of Education, the Chancellor and the central administration should be fully subject to state and city law;


    Be it resolved that three new independent oversight agencies should be established to enhance transparency when it comes to educational outcomes, respond to allegations of mismanagement and corruption, and respond to parental complaints, including an Independent Accountability office, an Inspector General, and an Ombudsperson;.


    Be it resolved that the Community School Districts should be restored as meaningful entities, with the rightful responsibilities and authority of District Superintendents reinstated, so that they spend at least 90% of their time with schools within their own districts, supporting and improving instruction and helping to address parental problems and concerns.


    Be it resolved that high schools and 6-12 schools should be assigned to their respective geographical districts, and that CDECs should include high school representatives, to provide additional opportunity besides the Citywide Council for High Schools for parents to have input in these decisions;


    Be it resolved that the CDEC election process and composition should be reformed, with every parent guaranteed a vote, and one seat on the CDEC reserved for a parent  of a high school student; one seat for a parent of a child with an IEP, and one seat for a parent of an English Language Learner;


    Be it resolved that CDECs should have the full authority under the law to approve school siting, selection, restructuring, expansion, and reconfiguration of schools, as well as the closing, opening and relocating of all traditional public and charter schools in their communities.


    Be it resolved that CDECs should have a central role in selecting and evaluating the Superintendent, by nominating three candidates for this job in consultation with Presidents Councils, from which the Chancellor will choose one.


    Be it resolved that a meaningful partnership between CDECs and Community Boards should be fostered, to work closely together on issues related to zoning, city budgets, development and school overcrowding. 

    Be it resolved that School Leadership Teams should have their authority restored to develop an annual school Comprehensive Educational Plan (CEP), including identifying annual goals and objectives, and to approve a school-based budget and staffing plan aligned with this plan;


    Be it resolved that School Leadership Teams should have the added responsibility to perform an annual space assessment of their schools, the results of which will be available to the public online, to improve the flawed capacity estimates included in the DOE’s “Blue Book”;.


    Be it resolved that a school-based committee of parents and staff will participate in the selection of the principal, similar to the earlier C-30 process, whereby three candidates are submitted by parents to the district superintendent for final approval;


    Be it resolved that an Independent Parent Organization (IPO) and an ancillary Independent Parent Academy, should be established, with a dedicated source of state funding, to strengthen the parent voice at the school, district and citywide levels;


    Be it resolved that the role of the Citywide Council on Special Education (CCSE) should be expanded to represent not just District 75 students and parents, but all children who receive a continuum of services mandated by an IEP (Individualized Education Program).


    Be it resolved that a seat for a parent of a special education student should be reserved on each of the Community District Education Councils and the Citywide Council on High Schools, to serve as liaison to and provide crucial frontline input to the CCSE.


    Be it resolved that a "cabinet-level" position (i.e., Deputy Chancellor) be established, charged with fulfilling and protecting the right to a "free, appropriate public education," as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for all students with special needs.


    Be it resolved that all these reforms should be adopted into law by the Legislature before the current governance system sunsets;


    Be it resolved that an independent Commission should be convened to draft a Constitution to define the mission, core principles, goals, and policy framework for New York City public schools, whose members will be chosen in a fully transparent manner to reflect the diversity of all our communities and to give all stakeholders (parents, students, teachers, administrators, community members) not only a seat at the table but equal power in the process;


    Be it resolved that once this Constitution is approved, all state and city education laws and regulations should be based upon it; 


    Be it further resolved that we [the name of your organization here] urge the Governor and the State Legislature to adopt the reforms of the Parent Commission as cited above, with the expectation that these changes will lead to fundamental improvements both in the governance system and in the quality of the education our children receive.






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