2003-03-29 / Community

NEA Gives Nod To Weiner Plan

NEA Gives Nod To Weiner Plan

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s leading education advocacy group, has endorsed legislation by Representative Anthony Weiner to limit the ability of students to transfer into overcrowded schools under the No Child Left Behind Act. The NEA, which has membership of 2.7 million educators nationwide, has launched a drive to achieve passage of Weiner’s School Capacity Relief Act.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, students in failing schools must be allowed to transfer into better ones. The problem is that in nearly every borough in New York City, students eligible to transfer vastly outnumber the available seats in good schools.

The one Rockaway school that would be impacted by the new law is PS 114 in Belle Harbor, a school recently placed on a list of top schools by city officials. Last year, more than 50 students came to PS 114 under the law, and parents have expressed fear that the school would become overcrowded by the inclusion of a large number of underachieving students from other Rockaway schools.

"It’s an equation that works for nobody," Weiner says. "Parents with kids in poorly performing schools are left to decide whether to send their child miles away to school or stay put, while parents in good schools fret that their classrooms will become overwhelmed with student transfers."

 Weiner’s legislation would authorize funds to school districts to build more classrooms to avoid overcrowding, hire more teachers and purchase instructional materials, and would place reasonable limits on the number of students who could be transferred to a particular school.

Today, the NEA announced its full support for Weiner’s bill. The School Capacity Relief Act "would help address some of the significant capacity concerns surrounding the NCLB’s school choice provisions," said NEA President Reg Weaver and NEA Executive Director John Wilson in a letter to the NEA Board of Directors. "We encourage you to contact your Member of Congress and urge them to cosponsor the bill."

The School Capacity Relief Act is currently before the House Subcommittee on Education Reform.

According to Weiner, only five New York City School Districts, Districts 1, 2 (Manhattan), 22 (Brooklyn), 25 and 26 (Queens) - have enough class room space to allow all of their eligible students to transfer from a failing school to a school that is not failing without causing overcrowding or having to leave the district.

In the remaining 32 School Districts-including Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island schools, there are 205,130 more students eligible to transfer than there are available seats in good schools. That leaves thousands of parents with two bad options: staying in a failing school or sending their child to a school in another neighborhood.

For thousands of students across the City, there is little hope of finding a place in a good school in their neighborhood district. In SD 6 (Manhattan) there are 17,852 students eligible for transfer, but only 169 available slots. In SD 10 (Bronx) it’s 20,259 to 415. In SD 19 (Brook­lyn) it’s 17,746 to 1,349. In SD 24 (Queens) it’s 11,442 to 80.

Not one of NYC’s high school districts has enough seats in good schools to accommodate students eligible to transfer out of failing schools. In Bronx high schools there are 14,189 more students eligible to transfer than there are seats, in Brooklyn there are 5,000 more, and in Queens there are 2,068 more. 

With so many students eligible to transfer, and available slots scatter­ed throughout the City, school transportation costs are expected to spike.  It’s estimated that costs associated with transporting students under the mandates of the act could rise to $61 million.

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