One day before the Democratic primary, mayoral hopeful Bill Thompson is making Mayor Bloomberg’s oversight of the city’s public schools his campaign’s defining issue.
Thompson, the city’s comptroller, issued a report yesterday rehashing arguments made by the mayor’s critics throughout his time in office. It criticized the mayor for not spending enough money on school construction, despite evidence that the city’s school-age population had swelled in certain districts.
The report, called “Unprepared for Overcrowding,” looks at the 2010-2014 capital plan the City Council approved this summer and singles out roughly two dozen school districts, the majority of them in the Bronx and Queens, where it predicts schools will remain overcrowded after 2014.
State Senator Liz Krueger, who was part of a gaggle of local elected officials who stood next to Thompson during the announcement, thanked the comptroller “for stating the obvious.”
During the press conference, which was held outside of the Manhattan New School (P.S. 290) on the Upper East Side, Thompson accused Bloomberg of making trailers permanent fixtures in low-income neighborhoods rather than fixing overcrowding.
“Of the 18,000 primary and middle school students being taught in temporary facilities, the vast majority are lower income and increasingly from immigrant neighborhoods,” he said, in what seemed a deliberate move to counter the mayor’s efforts to depict himself as a champion of eduction for minority students.
Workers from Bloomberg’s campaign staff attended the press release and distributed leaflets attacking Thompson’s record as president of the Board of Education.
Asked where he would find the money to increase school construction, Thompson cited $900 million that is slated to be spent on prison construction, and that he believes should be redirected to education.
Along with Krueger were Assemblyman Micah Kellner, Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, and Councilman Robert Jackson, all of whom gave statements roundly condemning the city’s capital plan as inadequate.
“When you’re talking about any issue like this, overcrowding and planning of schools, you have to be looking at minimum 5-10 years out,” Krueger said. “And yet, in the eight years I’ve been in the Senate trying to represent this district, my frustration has been that it appears that DOE doesn’t even look in front of its own face,” she said.
Asked why the report hadn’t been released in time to influence the City Council’s debate over the capital plan, Glenn von Nostitz, director of policy for the comptroller’s office of policy management, said it wasn’t completed in time.