U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) predicted grave consequences for Queens schools Monday if $755 million in federal education funds earmarked for 2003 are not delivered to the city.
Weiner, discussing the No Child Left Behind Act that was signed into law on Jan. 8, 2002, said overcrowding in the boroughs schools could be aggravated if the federal funds promised under the act are not delivered to the city as promised.
One year later the No Child Left Behind Act gets a failing grade, he said while speaking with educators at a press conference inside City Hall in Manhattan. The NCLB has flunked the New York City schools test.
Weiner based his comments on a study commissioned by his office that said because Congress has yet to pass a budget for 2003, it has to operate on a short-term budget and cannot deliver on a promise to dole out more money for education. This means, the report said, that any promised funding increases for Queens under the NCLB, including more money for programs like bilingual education and teacher improvement, have been put on hold.
The NCLB was a bipartisan bill raising funding, accountability and standards in public schools and was the first piece of legislation championed by President George W. Bush. Since its passage, school districts have increased spending on fulfilling the bills mandates, such as increased standardized testing, which are overseen by the U.S. Department of Education.
For Queens schools the key provision called on districts to establish transfer offices to handle parents requests for inter-district moves, which could jeopardize the health of good schools and aggravate the overcrowding problem in the borough by shuffling students around, Weiner said. He said to ask districts to pay for moving students around and effectively requiring them to do more with less is unfair without the additional funds.
Student transfers from underperforming districts to successful districts is mandated by the NCLB. The city Department of Education has responded to the No Child Left Behind Act by centralizing requests for inter-district transfers through a single office in the refurbished Tweed courthouse.
No one is not going to feel the pain here, he said. Weiner also said districts participating in state and federal initiatives to maintain small classes could lose that funding because they have to accept students requests to transfer into their districts, meaning their classes would increase in size beyond the state or federal limits. This, combined with the withholding of $755 million for all of New York City, will put local public schools in a bad situation, he said.
Queens has the most overcrowded public schools in the city, according to a recent report issued by the Public Advocate. The boroughs high schools operate at 117 percent of capacity, Department of Education statistics showed.
The most crowded district in the city is District 24, which covers Ridgewood, Maspeth and Middle Village. It has 37,686 students enrolled, which is 3,799 more students than it should have, putting it at 111 percent of capacity. Other overcrowded districts in the borough include District 27, which covers South Ozone Park, running at 103 percent of capacity; District 29 in southeast Queens, running at 104 percent of capacity; and District 30 in Sunnyside, Astoria, and Long Island City, running at 101 percent of capacity.
Weiner said that although Queens schools have complied with the new federal standard, they have yet to receive the additional funds for 2003. Queens and the rest of the city received funds from the NCLB in 2002, a spokesman for Weiner confirmed.
Lets have tough standards but lets also have the funding to make it happen, he said. Its really a shame that at a time of fiscal crisis of cut, cut and cutting, the federal government would join the bandwagon.
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 156
©2003 Community News Group
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