Apr 30, 2001
Press Release

NEW YORK: Today, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY) released a United States Congressional Report that shows overcrowding in a staggering 85% of kindergarten through third grade classrooms in Manhattan school districts one through four. Parents and school officials joined Representative Maloney at P.S. 290 in District 2, to discuss the challenges they face in providing high-quality learning environments for students, while dealing with a teacher shortage, severely limited space for new classrooms, and a growing student population. The report, done through the Committee on Government Reform & Oversight at the request of Representative Maloney, also shows that more than a third of these classrooms are extremely overcrowded according to established national standards. The following comments are excerpts from Maloney's remarks at the event:

"There is perhaps no issue more important to the future of our city than education. Most people agree that we should do everything in our power to provide kids with a great education, but many disagree over how to achieve reform. In recent years, the benefits of one approach have become strikingly clear: Reducing classroom sizes substantially improves student learning.

"Study after study shows that kids learn more when class-sizes are small, when students don't have to compete for attention, when they're not lost in the crowd, when they can interact with their teacher. This is common sense to most teachers and parents, and it's been proven by the scientific community as well. According to extensive research by the U.S. Department of Education, 'class size reduction in the early grades is one of the most direct and effective ways to boost children's academic achievement.' That's why the Congressional Report I am releasing today is so alarming.

"This report reveals that a staggering 85% of Kindergarten through third grade classrooms in Manhattan school districts one through four are overcrowded. Research shows that K to 3 students who attend classes with 18 or fewer students advance ahead of their peers by more than a year of schooling by the eighth grade. For this reason, the U.S. Department of Education established a federal goal of reducing class size to 18 students or fewer in grades K-3. Sadly, only 15% of students in Manhattan Districts one through four are currently learning in classrooms that meet this standard.

"Today's report also reveals that more than a third of these Manhattan classrooms are extremely overcrowded. These excessively large classrooms hold 25 or more students. Here at P.S. 290, every age group from grades K through 3 has an average of more than 25 students. Teachers and administrators here have done a great job finding ways to keep this school successful, but they've been asked to do much too much. School officials literally had to tear out toilets to create more space. Teachers convert the lunch room into class space every single day!

"The jam-packed condition of our schools is intolerable. The facts are in: Reducing class size gives kids a fair chance and a real opportunity to succeed. Parents know this, teachers know this, and it's high time the majority in Congress listens to this and takes action.

"The worst news may be that the Bush administration is headed in the opposite direction. The first budget submitted by the administration contains no dedicated funding for the existing class size reduction program. Instead, it folds the funds previously devoted exclusively to class size reduction into a block grant that can be used for multiple purposes. That plan leaves the 37,000 teachers funded through the class size reduction program last year in jeopardy of being let go due to insufficient funds.

"The Bush budget also eliminates the School Renovation Program created to fix crumbling schools. In fact, the Bush budget retroactively redirects the $1.2 billion already appropriated for repair and renovation work to other areas. The answer for reducing class size is to hire more qualified teachers and support school construction and renovation, not to eliminate successful programs.

"Charles Silver, President of the New York City Board of Education from 1955 to 1961, once said, 'Human aspiration reaches one if its highest expressions in the sacred and noble act of building a school. Because the children of today are the parents of tomorrow, there are no limits of time or distance to the enrichment of all mankind everywhere that begins in a single classroom.'

"I know our current School Board president agrees. I know parents agree and teachers agree. It's time we made quality education our number one national priority."

Representative Maloney was joined at today's event by students at P.S. 290 and Karen Feuer, President of Community School District 2, Jacqui Getz, Principal of P.S. 290, Leslie Profeta, PTA Co-President for P.S. 290, and Barbara Santella, Director of After-School programs at P.S. 290.