Tales of the woes of overcrowding in city schools might just subside in the coming years, thanks in large part due to a law that was spearheaded by the neighborhood’s State Senator Daniel Squadron, and which was signed into law by governor Andrew Cuomo this week.
The new law follows an audit conducted by the City Comptroller, Scott Stringer’s office, which revealed that 1 in 3 public schools of a total of just over 1,500 public schools in the city were overcrowded in 2012.
One of the startling findings of the report was that at P.S 319 in Williamsburg 178 students were squeezed into a building that is only meant to accommodate 78 students – an overcrowding margin of over 200 percent.
The new law will now require the city’s School Construction Authority (SCA) – the agency in-charge of constructing new schools and maintaining existing ones – to collect population data while formulating the goals and directives of its five year capital plan.
“For five years I’ve pushed my bill to require the City to use better data — like births and building permits — so planning for schools reflects the changing needs of communities,” said Squadron. “Better information, a focus on neighborhoods, and more transparency will mean better, less crowded schools for more school kids. Good planning alone won’t solve overcrowding, but it will make it a lot more likely that good decisions are made for the future, and that classrooms will be there when families need them.”
One of the other requirements of the law asks that the SCA partner with various city agencies like City Planning, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Department of Buildings, and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to create equally distributed student population projections for the next five years in regards to the SCA’s capital plan.
At present the capital plan is developed in tandem between the city’s Department of Education and the SCA. The new plan for the years 2015-2019 is estimated to cost $12 billion, and has proposed the installation of 32,500 seats to tackle the problem of overcrowding.
The new law seeks to ensure that those seats are equitably distributed, and that the money is spent and projects are commenced only after tapping into the vast resource pool available to the concerned agencies to best mitigate the overcrowding.