‘Blue Book Stats Inaccurate’ Claims CDEC 30
Amid a number of proposed school closings and co-locations by the city Department of Education (DOE) last year, Community District Education Council 30 objected to a DOE determination that five schools in District 30 were underutilized and pointed to an audit of the city’s Enrollment-Capacity-Utilization Report, commonly referred to as the “Blue Book”, by the Office of City Comptroller John Liu at the time.
“We feel the Blue Book is inaccurate,” CDEC 30 Co-President Jeff Guyton said at the October 20 CDEC 30 meeting where the comptroller’s findings, issued in September, were the subject.
The objective, Deputy Comptroller for Audit Tina Kim said, was to determine if there were adequate controls by the DOE and the School Construction Authority (SCA) over the collection, analysis and reporting of school capacity information contained in the city’s Enrollment–Capacity–Utilization Report, commonly referred to as the “Blue Book”.
Based on a formula of 35 square feet per pupil for pre-k and kindergarten students and 20 square feet per pupil for students in grades one to 12, 23 schools (five in Queens, none in District 30) were randomly selected and reviewed for function and capacity measures in the audit. Of those schools, 23 percent (34 out of 145 rooms examined) reported an incorrect function and in 20 of the 23 schools for which blueprints were available, 35 percent (43 of 124 rooms) reported an incorrect capacity.
“Principals did not adequately tell the function of each room [and] there were no written [DOE or SCA] policies or procedures [for principals to follow],” Kim said. “DOE/SCA needs to improve their controls.” DOE/SCA agreed to an audit recommendation to make principals more aware of the importance of their role in the collection of data. “DOE and SCA methodology only makes sense if the goal is to match total seats with total enrollment within the system. As the data is used to make decisions regarding individual schools and groups of schools, the best reflection of the accuracy of the Blue Book is the error rate of each individual school,” the audit reported.
But DOE and SCA did not completely agree, responding, “The intent of the Blue Book is not to capture the specific function and size of every room in every school building. Rather, it is to calculate the capacity of these buildings.”
“Obviously, the Blue Book can’t tell you everything [but] limitations of the Blue Book affect the calculation of utilization,” Kim noted.
As an example, P.S. 96 in South Ozone Park was cited. “Since 1996, P.S. 96 has been at overcapacity, most recently at 153 percent in 2009–2010,” Kim said. “However, DOE has yet to take significant action to address the problem.”
DOE specifically rejected an audit recommendation to employ the Blue Book as a way to identify over-utilized schools. Recently, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) reported Queens has the most oversize elementary and junior high school classes in the city, with 802 this year. District 30 has 151.
The City Council passed a law on October 17, to take effect in the 2013–2014 school year, requiring DOE to annually report on the size, capacity and utilization of public schools.