By Bill Parry
Two of the most chronically overcrowded school districts in the city are celebrating some long-awaited relief.
Elected officials, parent leaders and advocates from Make the Road New York gathered at PS 110 in Corona Monday to applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed 5-year Capital Plan, which includes additional funding of $868 million for school construction this year.
The mayor’s plan identified a need for 9,403 seats in School District 24 and will fund 4,869 of those seats.
“This is an enormous victory for the families of School Districts 24 and 30 who have struggled with overcrowded schools for over 20 years,” said Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst). “Now that we have the money, we need to be aggressive in siting and constructing new schools in the areas that need them most. We have to make sure that children in our neighborhoods have the same opportunity for a high quality, diverse, challenging education as the children in any neighborhood across the city.”
The number of new seats in the capital plan is 49,000, only 59 percent of which the Department of Education says it needs, and the city’s population is growing faster than that of any other large city in the country.
“I want to thank the administration for their responsiveness on this issue by providing nearly $1 billion in additional funding for new capacity and for increasing their calculation of seats needed to 83,000,” Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said. “However, more than half of our schools are overcrowded and our class sizes are far too large, so there is still much more to do. I will continue to work in collaboration with the administration and Council member Ferreras-Copeland to tackle the continuing space challenges faced by our schools.”
Following a report by Make the Road New York that highlighted how overcrowding in schools disproportionately affects immigrant neighborhoods and after years of advocacy by these elected officials and their Queens community allies to end the school crisis, de Blasio committed $14.9 billion for 11,400 new seats over the next five years.
“Classroom overcrowding has long been an issue for families living in Queens,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “We must continue to build capacity, which is absolutely critical to accommodating the borough’s growing population. Necessary capital funding must be in place to ensure all of our kids can attend schools with high-quality facilities. The future of our children depends on government getting it right for our kids.”
It is estimated that 540,000 city students study in overcrowded schools, and the city estimates that over 80,000 seats are needed.
“It’s simple: when schools are overcrowded, students can’t learn. That’s why I’ve fought to secure funding for 10 new schools in my district, as well as increased funding for school construction across the city,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “I urge the mayor and my colleagues on the City Council to adopt the proposed $868 million in additional capital funding for schools in the upcoming budget, so we can ensure every student has a chance to learn,”
Parents and representatives from several areas schools and representatives from CSA, IOUA Local 94, and DC 37 Local 372 filled the auditorium at PS 110. The school, which opened in September after years of canvassing the area, sports a sunny atrium with Tiffany & Co. stained glass, a nod to the old factory it was built upon.
“I was always told that good things come to those who wait. Our new home in Corona is a great thing and well worth the three-year wait, “said Brandi Passantino, assistant principal at PS 110.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr