Market Watch

FACILITIES: NYC elementary schools need more space

More than half of New York City's 730 elementary schools were operating at or above capacity in 1999-00, according to a report from the city's Public Advocate's office.

The study, "Still No Room to Learn," found that crowding in the nation's largest school system has lessened compared with the previous school year - 53 percent of elementary schools were considered at or above capacity in 1999-00, while 61 percent fit that description in 1998-99.

The study noted that the school system had added 13,000 seats in elementary classrooms in the last year with seven new buildings and 17 modular additions, yet crowding remained an issue at most elementary schools.

The report found that 23 percent of the city's elementary schools are considered extremely overcrowded - at 110 percent or more of capacity - and 14 schools are at 150 percent or more of capacity.

SCHOOL CHOICE: Court nixes Cleveland voucher plan

A federal appeals court has ruled that Cleveland's school-voucher program unconstitutionally diverts public funds to religious schools.

In a 2-1 opinion, a 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel decided that the experimental school choice plan "has the primary effect of advancing religion and ... constitutes an endorsement of religion and sectarian education."

The voucher plan gives low-income families up to $2,500 in vouchers that can be used to cover tuition at private schools participating in the program.

Observers believe the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately will review the case.

COMMUNITY USE: Funds for after-school centers

In an effort to make school facilities available beyond traditional school hours, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded nearly $213 million in grants to help school districts establish after-school community centers.

The grants will allow 346 districts in 46 states to support after-school centers as part of the department's 21st-Century Community Learning Centers program. It enables schools to stay open longer and provide homework centers, intensive mentoring in basic skills, drug- and violence-prevention counseling, recreational activities, technology education programs, and services for children with disabilities.

The grant recipients join about 3,600 rural and inner-city public schools in 903 communities that already take part in the program.

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