By Phil Corso
Hillcrest High School and Oakland Gardens’ Benjamin N. Cardozo High School were listed as two of the city’s top offenders when it comes to overcrowded classrooms, a United Federation of Teachers survey said.
The union based its findings on a compilation of grievances filed by chapter leaders at schools throughout the city and reported that there were 6,313 complaints of overcrowded classes during the past year, compared to 6,133 the prior year. More than 1,000 of those classes were found in Queens, with nearly 400 each at Hillcrest and Cardozo, the UFT said.
The survey also found the city’s average amount of students in a class for early grades reached a 14-year high with more than 24 in Grades 1 and 2 and 25 in Grade 3, the highest since 1999.
“Twelve years of [Mayor] Michael Bloomberg, and hundreds of thousands of students start the school year in oversize classes — while many of them will stay in oversize classes for weeks or months,” said Michael Mulgrew, UFT president. “At the same time citywide averages for classes in first-, second- and third-grade are at the highest they have been in 14 years. It is time to take this issue seriously.”
The UFT survey put Cardozo near the top of the city’s most oversized high school classrooms with 385, second only to Hillcrest High School’s 400. Jackson Heights’ IS 145 also cracked the union’s list of middle and elementary schools suffering from oversized classrooms with 29, the highest number in that category.
“We need to stop playing games with our kids’ future and start getting serious about overcrowding in our city’s classrooms — a chronic issue that this Department of Education has ignored for too long, at the expense of hundreds of thousands of city school children,” said Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President. “Investing in new schools and classrooms will require shared sacrifice and the sustained commitment of all New Yorkers. But doing nothing is not an option — not when the cost will be measured in lost learning and squandered opportunity for our children.”
The numbers exceeded contractual limits in accordance with the UFT’s contract, Mulgrew said, which limits class size to 18 students in pre-kindergarten classrooms, 25 in kindergarten, 32 in Grades 1 through 6, 33 in junior high and middle schools and 34 in high schools. The end result, the UFT said, is that more than 230,000 students citywide spent part of all of their days in overcrowded classrooms.
“All our students, especially our youngest children, desperately need smaller class sizes,” Mulgrew said. “And in any school where the administration knows it is under a mandate to reduce class sizes to the contractual limit, there is no excuse for letting students stay in an oversize class through Thanksgiving or even the new year.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.