Letter to the Board of Regents & results of our Parent Conference on the Reopening of NYC Schools

Below is a letter sent July 2 from Class Size Matters and NYC Kids PAC to NY State  Chancellor Betty Rosa, the Board of Regents and the NY State Education Commissioner, with copies to Chancellor Carranza and other education decision makers, highlighting some of the most important concerns and ideas offered by parents, teachers and others who contributed to our online survey and our June 20 conference on the reopening of schools.

Below that is a more detailed summary of the views expressed in the form of a power point.Our online survey garnered the detailed thoughts of nearly 400 parents and educators, CBO reps and concerned New Yorkers, while the conference featured ten break out groups with nearly one hundred participants.  What was clear from those who responded was that while most parents want to send their kids to school in the fall, given the highly deficient nature of remote learning, there is a strong minority who would prefer to keep them at home until there is a reliable vaccine.  This is both because some family have pre-existing conditions that make them more vulnerable to Covid, and because some kids do better with online learning than others.  We recommended to the Regents that families and teachers should have that choice.

A top concern of most everyone was whether the schools will have the funding to provide the health and safety protections, teachers and space necessary for social distancing and smaller classes.  These concerns are further reinforced by the severe budget cuts  and staffing freeze that will be imposed on  NYC schools next year, and the egregious lack of funding by the federal government and the state to deal with the COVID crisis.

This was made worse by the fact that Governor Cuomo hijacked the federal funds that were supposed to go to schools to deal with the pandemic to fill holes in the state budget, as pointed out in the letter below.  Contrast that with  millions in federal and state funds provided to districts in Massachusetts for this purpose.

Another prominent finding from our survey is there is very little confidence, either by parents or teachers, that the Mayor or DOE officials are listening to their concerns in planning for the reopening of schools.  See slides 3 and 4 of the power point below.  This lack of trust results from the lack of consultation and communication that the DOE has engaged in, from the beginning of the COVID crisis to this day.

This is especially unfortunate, as the administration should be reaching out as broadly as possible to get help from volunteers, community groups, businesses and others to provide the in-person tutoring and support necessary to help support kids’ learning, social development and health next fall, given the limited space and staffing that schools will be able to provide on staggered schedules.

Finding an adequate solution is made even more difficult by the chronically overcrowded conditions of NYC schools and classrooms, with more than half a million students attending over-utilized schools according to DOE’s own data, and at least 275,000 students in classes of 30 students or more last fall.

As I wrote below, “If there was ever a time for creative thinking and broad outreach to the larger community by NYC and other districts, this is the time.” Instead, DOE continues in its usual insular manner, making decisions based on non-transparent data with little public input.

Please check out the letter and power point summary below, and let us know what you think in the comment section.  Thanks!

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