New York

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.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.