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Parents, elected officials urge better education capital planning

At the kickoff rally of A Better Capital Plan campaign this morning, elected officials offered up two giant sacks stuffed with thousands of signed postcards calling for alleviation of overcrowding that currently affects hundreds of schools and improvements to the DOE’s planning process.

The officials were joined by dozens of parents, mostly from Manhattan’s District 2 and District 3, and children from PS 3 in Greenwich Village, who held aloft colorful posters asking “Are we students or are we packing peanuts?” and calling for “No more cramped schools!”

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, whose “Crowded Out” reports and overcrowding task force have have given momentum to the recent surge in anti-overcrowding activity, led off the rally by demanding “the strongest, biggest capital plan we can possibly create.” The School Construction Authority is due to present a new five-year capital plan next month.

The ABC campaign calls for class size reduction, proactive planning, and corrections to capital utilization estimates, which often show schools as being able to accommodate more students than they actually can. (Those estimates were the subject of today’s City Council hearing on overcrowding, which followed the rally.)

The need for better planning is acute, officials said. “The construction boom has been a bust,” said Jessica Lappin, who chairs the council’s committee on landmarks and public siting, with residential construction far outpacing the creation of new school seats.

Stringer said the consequences of poor planning could be devastating for the city, whose families expect quality neighborhood schools. “When that expectation is not met, parents pack up and move out of the city, and they take their tax dollars,” he said.

On the steps of City Hall, protesters weren’t shy about addressing Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement yesterday that he plans to run for a third term even though doing so is not currently legal.

“You want us to grade you on what you’ve done for schools?” asked Deborah Glick, whose assembly district has been home to recent rallies to support creating a new middle school. “On overcrowding, on providing an appropriate educational environment — you get an F.”

And Leonie Haimson, the head of Class Size Matters who is a co-chair of the campaign, said the mayor didn’t keep his original campaign promise to build new schools. Instead, once he came into office, he cut the capital budget by 60 percent, she said, noting that “we still have not recovered.

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