Thursday, September 10, 2009



  • Audit finds more than 25 percent of Early Grade Class Size Reduction funding has been redirected or misspent
  • “This has broad implications for all public school children and their educational futures,” Comptroller says.

Failing Grades in Class-Size Reduction Chart

    New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. unveils a new audit at a news conference on September 9, 2009 exposing major flaws in the New York City Department of Education’s management of State funding dedicated to the reduction of early grade class sizes.   Pictured (l to r) are: Leonie Haimson, Executive Director, Class Size Matters and Thompson.

    September 09, 2009 -- New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. today charged that the Department of Education (DOE) has consistently failed to monitor the use of certain funds provided by the State to reduce early grade class size – thereby potentially risking the educational advancement and achievement of young students.

    “Conclusive studies have shown that smaller class sizes in early grades translates into higher student achievement over time,” Thompson said. “The City’s failure to ensure that these monies were spent properly has broad implications for all public school children and their educational futures.”

    The revealing audit – launched in November 2008 amid mounting concerns about growing class sizes – found that 26.9 percent in Early Grade Class Size Reduction (EGCSR) funding provided by New York State to lower class size in kindergarten through third grades was not spent in accordance with guidelines.

    “Insufficient monitoring and poor allocation of funds by the Education Department has resulted in the failure to create necessary additional classrooms,” Thompson said. “Each new class created would have benefited not only the students who filled them, but also other general education classes within the same grade.”

    Failing Grades in Class-Size Reduction Chart

    View Audit

    Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, said, “I want to thank the City Comptroller and his staff for their careful attention to this critical issue. Smaller classes remain the top priority of parents, according to the DOE’s own surveys. The state’s highest court said that New York City children have been deprived of their constitutional right to an adequate education because of excessive class sizes. Class size reduction is now a state mandate, and yet the DOE continues to violate the law, with little or no compunction. In fact, last school year, class sizes increased by the largest amount in ten years. We will be calling on the State Education Department to withhold any further Contracts for Excellence funding until the city complies with the law and reduces class size.”

    Thompson’s auditors found that the DOE did not spend $48.4 million – or 26.9 percent – of the $179.9 million in EGCSR funds in accordance with required guidelines, and fell significantly short of providing the required number of additional classrooms paid for with EGCSR funds. Specifically:

      • DOE used $46.8 million of EGCSR funds to supplant tax levy funds at 245 schools across the City. The breakdown of how this money was spent is as follows:

        • Schools that had the space and need failed to create new classes with $17.9 million.

        • DOE inappropriately allocated $21 million to schools that did not have space to add classrooms.

        • Schools without a need to reduce class sizes nonetheless spent $7.9 million.

      • Furthermore, 15 schools misspent $1.6 million in EGCSR funds, on per diem absence coverage, cluster teachers, and teacher removals, instead of creating additional classrooms.

        In July 2009, Thompson released two blistering audits regarding the DOE’s failures to accurately track graduation rates and monitor standardized testing.

        “This audit once again demonstrates that Mayor Bloomberg and the Education Department are not effectively utilizing available resources or properly monitoring schools in order to maximize student academic achievement,” Thompson said.

        Of the $48.4 million that was not spent in accordance with required guidelines, Thompson’s audit charged that the DOE used $46.8 million to supplant tax levy funds. These monies should have been spent on creating an additional 414 general education classes at 245 schools across the City. 

        However, schools improperly used these funds to instead pay for teacher positions that would have existed without the class size reduction program. 

        “Average class size for general education in kindergarten through third grade would have been reduced if new classes had been created,” Thompson said. “Substandard planning for the allocation of these funds contributed to the failure to create the required number of classrooms.”

        Thompson’s audit stressed that enhanced oversight by the DOE and borough-based Integrated Service Centers (ISCs) would have identified schools that received EGCSR funds but did not comply with early grade guidelines, lacked the capacity to add classrooms, or did not need additional classrooms.

        Thompson’s audit also highlighted that the DOE allocated $17.9 million in EGCSR funding to 115 schools that had the capacity and need to add an additional 159 classrooms, but that these schools failed to do so.

        “These funds should have been used to hire teachers and create additional classrooms to lower the average class size,” Thompson said. “However, these schools routinely used class size funding for classrooms that should have been paid for, or were previously paid for, with tax levy funds – a clear violation of EGCSR regulations.”

        Thompson’s analysis showed that these 115 schools had a need to reduce early grade class size, had the space to add classrooms, and received EGCSR funds, but did not add the required number of classrooms.

        Thompson’s audit also found that the DOE allocated $21 million in EGCSR funds to 108 schools that did not have the space to create an additional 185 classrooms. Even though EGCSR funds can only be allocated to schools where space is readily available to add new classes, this $21 million was then used in addition to the schools’ normal budget.

        “Clearly, school capacity is a major impediment to new classroom formation,” Thompson said. “Schools that did not have the capacity to create additional classrooms should not have received this funding.”

        Thompson’s audit uncovered that the DOE gave $7.9 million to 46 schools to add 70 additional classrooms, despite the fact that these schools already had class sizes of 20 students or fewer in kindergarten to third grade. Consequently, these schools had no need for additional EGCSR funding, but the schools retained the funds anyway and used them to pay for items for which they were not intended.

        Finally, 15 schools simply misspent $1.6 million instead of using the EGCSR funds to create 14 new classrooms.  “Had Education Department personnel performed even a cursory review, they could have easily identified schools that used these funds improperly,” Thompson said.

        He added, “While I do not doubt that schools need more funding, the fact remains that EGCSR funding specifically earmarked for the reduction of class sizes should have been used to create additional classrooms.”

        Since the DOE now follows the more flexible federal EGCSR guidelines, the audit’s recommendations address the new federal policy in place as of Fiscal Year 2009. Thompson therefore recommends that DOE Central should:

        • Continue to give priority to new classroom formation.
        • Require schools to prepare a formal annual plan detailing whether funds will be used to add classrooms or fund push-in teachers.
        • Require ISCs to monitor the use of EGCSR funding to verify that it is in accordance with the plans established by those schools within their districts.

        Thompson also recommended that ISCs should:

        • Closely monitor the schools that plan to add a classroom to ensure that funds are used only to create classrooms in addition to those that would have existed without the EGCSR funds.

        Make use of Enrollment, Capacity, and Utilization Reports and project enrollment for those schools that plan to add a push-in teacher to determine whether an additional classroom can be added instead.

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