MANHATTAN — Mayor Bill de Blasio received mostly failing grades from a grassroots parent group tracking changes to public schools over the past four years, which blasted the city for inadequate progress on issues like overcrowding and integration.
The NYC Kids PAC (Political Action Committee), founded by public school parents nearly a decade ago to support political candidates, issued its annual mayoral report Tuesday, which said the group was disappointed in de Blasio's lack of transparency and increased “wasteful” spending on consultants, contracts and bureaucrats.
The group even criticized the mayor’s largely lauded expanded pre-K program ensuring all of the city’s 4-year-olds have access to “full day” (6 hours and 20 minutes) pre-K, which de Blasio is slowly rolling out to the city’s 3-year-olds starting in two high-needs districts this week. The PAC says he's been focused more on getting state funding for these programs than for existing K-12 programs that have yet to receive the full amount of state funding due to them under a 10-year-old court ruling.
“The overall underfunding of our schools continues, and has contributed to overly large class sizes and insufficient services and programs at many schools,” the report card states, giving de Blasio a “D” on funding issues.
“Meanwhile, the Department of Education has nearly doubled the number of top-level administrators under Mayor de Blasio. In next year’s budget, the city will be spending 70 percent more on the central staff bureaucracy than under the last year of Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, and 34 percent more on central staff expenses.”
City Hall, however, defended its record.
“The facts here are clear,” mayoral spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie said. “New York City public schools are the strongest they’ve ever been with the highest-ever graduation rate, lowest-ever dropout rate, steady increase in State test scores and 70,000 four year olds enrolled in free pre-K.”
NYC Kids PAC has been highly critical of the mayor in the past, when it issued report cards based on whether he fulfilled his campaign promises. The latest grades, however — which focused on key areas of policy and practice — were the lowest yet.
The report card gave the mayor an “F” on overcrowding and class size, claiming that the 50,000 new seats promised in the current five-year school capital plan is less than 60 percent of the seats needed according to the DOE’s own estimates. The group also found fault with the planning and implementation of the pre-K expansion, claiming that there are pre-K seats in schools and areas where there aren’t enough kindergarten seats, worsening overcrowding.
“Some pre-K centers have also cost the city millions of dollars in renovations and leasing costs, to serve a handful of students,” stated the report card. “Some of these vacant seats are in buildings leased specifically for pre-K. The expansion of pre-K for 3-year-old students may simply compound these problems.”
The group also flunked de Blasio on his approach to education for English Language Learners, who saw a 9.6 percentage point drop in the graduation rate over one year, with only a 26.9 percent four-year graduation rate.
He also got a “D” for his approach to boosting diversity. Many experts have criticized the mayor’s plan since many of his goals set to address segregation would be met regardless, simply because of demographic shifts as opposed to policy changes.
Moreover, in areas like the Lower East Side’s District 1, the DOE has “stood in the way” of implementing an enrollment plan created by the Community Education Council to integrate local schools. In District 13, which covers areas from Brooklyn Heights to Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, the Community Education Council also said the DOE hindered its integration efforts, shutting the council out of giving input on the citywide diversity plan despite repeated requests to review it before its final release.