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Overcrowded And Underfunded – QNS.com

Overcrowded And Underfunded

A report released last week saying New York City public schools need $5.63 billion in operating aid and $9.2 million for school facilities raised hopes for relief in overcrowded Queens schools.
The report, produced by a court-appointed panel in a lawsuit between the state and the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, a coalition of education advocacy groups, cited overcrowding as one of the main problems preventing New York City schools from offering a "sound, basic education" to its students.
Though the report does not suggest how to specifically allocate the funds within the district, Queens administrators and local politicians said the borough has the worst overcrowding problem in the city and deserves extra funding to create more space and pay more teachers.
"This is where we need to create the seats," said Councilman John Liu of Flushing, "The bulk of the money should be to reduce overcrowding in Queens."
According to a report by the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO), a publicly funded agency, Queens high schools operated at an average 120 percent of capacity last year. Many high schools, including LaGuardia, Long Island City and Queens Vocational, operate far above that percentage, said the report.
With a capacity of 2,200, Francis Lewis High Schools ability to cram nearly double that number is possible only through the creativity of its administrators.
"My school is packed," said Francis Lewiss principal, Jeffrey Scherr. Students at the school enter in shifts starting at 7:15 a.m. until 11 a.m., and lunch begins at 9 a.m. To make room for more classrooms, physical education classes are now called "polar bear gym," meaning they are held outside except in the worst of weather. Eight make-shift trailers have been added to campus to hold the overflowing student body. They may cancel the spring musical this year after the auditorium was converted to another classroom, eliminating the rehearsal space.
"Even if you gave me money to reduce class-size, I cant do that," said Scherr. "Ive no place to put them."
To make a significant dent in the overcrowding problem, Scherr suggested that funding be funneled into building new schools with capacities between 1,500 and 2,000.
It is likely that the judge will adhere to the panels recommendations and decide the decade-long lawsuit in New York Citys favor, and that higher courts will uphold his ruling, the New York Times reported. Governor George Pataki has resisted the reports recommendation that the state foot most of the bill, however, saying it is unfair and the city should also contribute funds.
"Its not acceptable to say New York City should [contribute]," said Councilman Liu. "Its a statewide issueif we could fix it in the city, there would be no lawsuit."
The judges decision is expected in January. The CFE will pursue the suit if Pataki decides to appeal, but Ahmed added, "We are very confident the governor and legislature will do the right thing."
sarah@queenscourier.com

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