2007-09-19 / Editorials

Klein Rejects Small Classes

To The Editor:

Despite all of the rhetoric coming from City Hall and [Schools] Chancellor Joel Klein, they have made it clear that there are no plans in the immediate future to utilize any of the additional state funding to reduce class size. As of this writing, the city has still yet to come up with a plan on how to reduce class size. Did I mention that the contracts for excellence were supposed to be concluded by mid-August? Because of the irresponsible stubbornness of city Department of Education, we have already started the new school year and there are many more children who are being forced to try [to] achieve more, but under even worse conditions. The budget was enacted on April 1 of this year, with New York City schools receiving $714 million more than last year. Six months later, Chancellor Klein is still giving the state Education Department the runaround. The current school year has already started and a plan is still not in place. It is an absolute slap in the face to the students and teachers who are still working and trying to teach in overcrowded classrooms.

However, the Chancellor's refusal to put a class-size reduction plan into place is not surprising. He has told me personally that he does not believe reducing class size is possible because he would have to build new schools. By the way the state would pay for 50 percent of the cost of these new schools. This means he would then have to hire 500 additional teachers over five years. Chancellor Klein also said that he did not believe any teachers would even want to be placed in "those" new schools because they would be built in the most overcrowded areas, which is code for saying minority areas. Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg has subsequently stated that in this year's quest for new teachers, they were overwhelmed by the response from quality teachers who want to work in New York City.

It is apparent that many experienced teachers would, in fact, want to work in these new schools. These new schools would have the most modern technology, [and] security and they would be ideal places for quality teachers to educate our children.

The creation of new seats is the best way to reduce class size. However, immediately one can get almost the same benefit by placing an additional teacher in an overcrowded classroom. Figures provided to me from the state Department of Education show just how few new schools have actually been constructed over the last five years in New York City, with a majority of these schools being initiated by the previous administration.

The law passed this year authorizes the state to provide New York City with an additional $283 million to carry out the goal of smaller class size. Chancellor Klein's foot-dragging will not only cost the city money, but cheat the children out of a quality learning experience. Sincerely, Ivan C. Lafayette 34th Assembly District

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