Update on Committee Investigations

From Assemblyman Jeff Klein
Chair, Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation

City and State Education Offices Fall Short with Monitoring and Enforcement Efforts

School age children must be provided with the tools to lead active, healthy and physically fit lifestyles. Concerned with the rising number of children who are obese and overweight, Assembly Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee Chairman Jeff Klein conducted an extensive investigation of NYC school playgrounds. His report, No Room In The Playground, revealed inadequate outdoor recreation space available to New York City’s elementary school children and a failure by State and City agencies to consider outside playground space as a priority measure.

"No Room in the Playground"

Klein Report Finds State and City Education officials must do more to ensure school students have adequate outdoor playground space

Click here to view report.

Assemblyman Klein found that schools too often install Temporary Classroom Units (TCU’s) onto playgrounds to ease overcrowded classrooms. These "temporary" units remain in place as long as eight years, eliminating crucial outdoor playground space for recreational activities. Though a 1947 law requires that "It shall be unlawful for a schoolhouse to be constructed in the City of New York without an open-air playground …", City and State Education Departments fail to adequately consider the implications of lost playground space when TCU’s are put on their grounds.

Among the report’s findings, Chairman Klein found:

  • Over 200 portable classrooms are located on school grounds, to meet overcrowded classroom conditions. These classrooms often take up a school’s entire playground area.
  • The State Education Department (SED) fails to monitor the adequacy of outdoor playground space in NYC public schools. It fails to review site plans and specifications pertaining to construction of NYC school buildings, additions and renovation of school buildings, including installation of Temporary Classroom Units (TCU) installed on available outdoor playground space.
  • NYC provides a standard for outdoor playground space, but it does not effectively monitor schools’ compliance with its standard. The City fails to collect and maintain square footage data to effectively calculate if a school meets its own requirements and State law.

In releasing his report Chairman Klein said "Our kids need to be outside and moving, in order to experience healthy play and exercise. These are important life lessons and our schools must be equipped with the facilities to ensure these lessons can be taught."

The Committee Report recommended that:

  • SED use its current authority to receive, review, and approve all necessary plans and specifications governing renovations, additions and building construction in NYC schools, including the installation of Temporary Classroom Units on outdoor playground sites.
  • NYC Department of Education maintain current data on school facilities, to allow for its assessment of available outdoor recreational playground space.
  • Each site with TCUs should be annually reviewed, ensuring long term solutions to address both overcrowded classroom conditions and outdoor recreation space to meet physical education curriculum requirements.
  • NYC school officials must expand the effective Joint Operating Playgrounds program with the Parks Department, to provide more park facilities to schools suffering from insufficient outdoor playground space.

Assemblyman Klein will be introducing legislation to ensure alternative outdoor space is provided when school playgrounds are used for purposes other than play, like portable classrooms or parking lots.

Oversight Chairman Klein releases Committee Report
"No Room in the Playground"

PUBLIC EYE #5 (November 2003) is the fifth in a series of updates from Chairman Jeff Klein detailing his work as Chair of the NYS Assembly Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee. Other issues will follow. The Committee is charged with reviewing implementation and adequacy of laws and programs to ensure compliance by the public and government agencies. Through its monitoring and investigative activities, it seeks to determine whether programs are operating as required and whether funds allocated for programs are spent effectively, efficiently and in accordance with legislative intent.

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Committee Office: Agency Building 4, 12th Floor, Albany, NY 12248, 518.455.3039

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