Jamaica High School UFT
August 20, 2008
Mr. Richard Mills
State Education Commissioner
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
& fax: (518) 473-4909
Dear Commissioner Mills:
I must alert you to a growing crisis—“Academic Apartheid” in our schools. I am writing as part of the comment process on
Despite the fact that Jamaica High School is on the state/federal accountability list as a low-performing school—last year, we were in our fifth year as a School Requiring Academic Progress—and supposed to get more C4E money as a result, the school is still receiving far less per pupil funding than Queens Collegiate, a new small selective school that is being placed in the building. We believe this is unfair.
According to the New York City Department of Education Website, Queens Collegiate is starting up with 81 students in the fall. They will receive $884,544 to run their school for 2008-09. Meanwhile,
When the supplemental allotment is included,
The promotional literature being produced by Queens Collegiate advertises lower class sizes. If Jamaica had a per pupil allocation similar to Queens Collegiate, we could easily lower class sizes to under 23 instead of having class sizes as high as 34, the level that we are currently projecting; we certainly could improve the student to counselor ratio and enhance other support services as well.
Despite the clear need for smaller classes, and the new state mandate to achieve them, particularly in low-performing schools,
In June, many teachers in the Social Studies Department were told they are being evicted from rooms that they had been teaching in for years because a number of our classrooms and the Departmental Office will be taken over by the new school. This problem will worsen significantly in coming years as Queens Collegiate expands by two grades per year into a grade 6-12 school that will require much more space in the building.
It should be noted that in a recent citywide survey, 86% of NYC public school principals said that their class sizes were too large to provide a quality education, and 27% said that overcrowding in their schools had worsened from new schools or programs having been moved into their buildings in recent years.
In the city’s class size plan, approved last fall by the state, the DOE pledged that “decisions regarding the co-location of a new school or program in an existing building will explicitly take into account the decisions and plans principals have made regarding reduced class size. It is important to be clear that the DOE will not place a new school or program in a building at the expense of those schools and programs already operating within the building and that these decisions will be made in consultation with school principals.”[i]
Unfortunately, they are ignoring that pledge in the case of
We appealed to the PEP for equity for our students. We told them how a selective, better funded school within our building would have a detrimental impact on the opportunities for
The DOE would seem to be paying no heed to their pledge to the state not to site new schools to the detriment of existing schools at many other sites as 18 new charter schools and 53 more small schools are planned for next year; nearly all of them are slated to share space with already existing schools. This policy is creating a system of “Academic Apartheid” in these buildings as the charter schools and many of the small schools are given permission to cap class size and/or enrollment at far lower levels than the schools that they are invading. Indeed, a recent analysis showed that small schools have a class size of four fewer students on average than large schools, 24 students per class compared to 28. [ii]
Many of the existing schools which are being forced to share space with these smaller schools also have excessive class sizes, and would otherwise have been able to reduce class sizes to more appropriate levels if they had the space. This situation calls for immediate state action.
Jamaica High School and all other city schools on the state or federal low-performing list should be given the funding, the space and a clear directive to reduce class size to at least the levels set out in the city’s five year plan—20 students in a class in grades K to 3, and 23 in all other grades—and the state must forbid any new school from being placed in the building of any state or federal low-performing school until it has achieved those class sizes.
If this is not done, then a system of “Academic Apartheid” will expand and there will be separate and unequal schools within hundreds of
We look forward to your response.
Social Studies Teacher,
UFT Chapter Leader,
Cc: Deputy Commissioner Johanna Duncan-Poitier: email@example.com
Education Secretary Manuel Rivera: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Board of Regents: email@example.com
Chair of the NY State Assembly Education Committee Cathy Nolan: firstname.lastname@example.org
Geri Reilly: email@example.com
Chair of the NYC Council Education Committee Robert Jackson: firstname.lastname@example.org
State Senator Malcolm A. Smith: email@example.com
Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver: firstname.lastname@example.org
Executive Director Class Size Matters Leonie Haimson: email@example.com
[i] NYC Dept. of Education, Approved Class Size Reduction Plan (November 17, 2007); posted at
[ii] John Tapper, Class Size and Contract for Excellence: Are we making progress in NYC’s public schools? April 28, 2008; Posted at http://www.uft.org/news/issues/presscontract for excellence.pdf