A new report by the nonprofit Class Size Matters found that more than 50,000 school seats were lost from 2004 through 2013 and that the city must do more if they want to alleviate overcrowding.
The report, titled “Seats Gained and Lost in NYC Schools: The Untold Story,” compared statements that then Mayor Bloomberg made about having added 100,000 school seats to data found in Department of Education (DOE) School Capacity and Utilization Reports known as Blue Books.
Researchers found that Bloomberg did not consider the number of seats lost during that period due to lost leases, co-locations, or the closure of annexes, mini buildings and Temporary Classroom Units (TCU) or trailers.
When these loses are factored, only 45,014 seats were gained between 2004 and 2013. Elementary schools at or above 100 percent capacity increased by 17 percent and the number of students enrolled in these buildings increased by 29 percent.
The report also found that most of the school seats went to charter schools instead of public schools, which saw an increase of 2,357 through the decade.
The most overcrowded school district — District 24 — is located in Queens. Though elected officials have made efforts to remove classroom trailers, most of which were supposed to be temporary but were utilized for years, enrollment is expected to increase in this district the next five years.
According to city data, the district’s elementary schools had an average utilization rate of 125 percent in the 2015-2016 school year. The city estimates that the district will need 9,400 additional seats to meet demand and only about half of those seats are funded in the February 2017 capital plan. The DOE’s TCU plan would remove about 623 additional seats.
Funding additional seats is also an issue, the nonprofit report highlighted. The 2017 capital plan allocates $142 million to restore lost space through the Facility Replacement Program. But this is a sharp decline from the $1.3 billion the program received in 2009.
Councilman Danny Dromm, who represents parts of District 24 and is the education committee chairperson, said the city must be honest about how many seats are required to alleviate overcrowding.
“To combat overcrowding in our public schools, the NYC Department of Education must first be open and honest about seat loss,” Dromm said. “Charter school co-locations have taken a tremendous toll on public education in our city, leading to fewer classroom seats in already overcrowded schools. While I have successfully fought to create new seats during my tenure in the NYC Council, much more work needs to be done. I urge the administration to take the necessary steps to reduce class size in NYC. Our children deserve no less.”
QNS reached out to the DOE for comment and is awaiting response.