FAQ on the state’s new class size law

You can download this fact sheet as a pdf here.

Updated Nov. 1, 2022

FAQ on the state’s new class size law for NYC

On June 2, 2022 the Legislature overwhelming passed  S9460/ A10498  by a vote of 59-4 in the Senate and 147-2 in the Assembly.  The bill required that NYC implement a five-year class size reduction plan beginning in the fall of 2022.  On Sept. 8, 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the bill into law,  based upon an agreement with Legislators that the bill will be amended to begin the five-year phase-in period Sept. 2023 instead. The Legislature will have to vote to approve the amended version of the bill when they reconvene in January, however the planning for this should begin now.

What are the class size goals that the DOE must meet?

 The law calls for the same class size levels in NYC’s original Contract for excellence plan that was approved by the state in 2007 though never carried out, in this version as caps rather than averages: no more than 20 students per class in academic subjects in grades K-3, no more than 23 students per class in grades 4th-8th, and no more than 25 students per class in high school – all in core academic subjects.  The law also requires physical education and performing art classes to be capped at forty students per class.

Each year starting in September 2023, 20 percent of all classes must  achieve these caps, with an additional 20 percent of classes added each year, until the smaller class sizes are achieved citywide by the end of the 2027-2028 school year.  The documented attainment of these caps will be due Sept. 2028. The city’s plan is supposed to prioritize schools with high levels of poverty to implement these caps first.

According to our analysis of last year’s class size figures, about 35% of students and 45% of classes were at or below the class size s last year .  Class sizes have increased this year, however, because of the budget cuts to schools.

What are the accountability and enforcement mechanisms?

The bill includes an enforcement process tied to funding. The city must submit annual reports by Nov. 15 of each year to show how much funding is being spent on staffing and additional space, and whether they are meeting the new class size benchmarks. The report must be certified by the state or city comptroller that the DOE’s capital and spending plans are providing sufficient space to achieve the goals in its plan, and if not, what measures and/or funding should be added to achieve such targets.

If the DOE has not met the annual goals in the plan, the State Education Department must issue a corrective action plan to ensure that they meet their benchmarks the following plan.  If the DOE does not fully implement the corrective action plan, the State is supposed to hold back funding until the corrective plan has been fully implemented.

Are there enough quality teachers to staff class size reduction?

New York City public schools currently suffer from high teacher attrition at a time when there is also a nationwide teacher shortage. Roughly 5,000 city classroom teachers resign or retire every year and many of them cite excessive class sizes as a reason. Class size reduction will likely  lower teacher turnover, which means in the long run, it will lead to a more experienced, effective teaching force.

When will planning for class size reduction begin, and what needs to happen?

Planning should begin immediately as soon as possible. There needs to be a capital plan to ensure there is sufficient space, especially in our most overcrowded districts.  Even despite enrollment decline last year,  27% of Schools citywide were over 100% Utilization last year, enrolling 34% of students. Fully 37% of elementary schools were overcrowded.

In addition, the middle and high school overcrowding data was artificially reduced because the School Construction Authority made a change in the formula, and now assumes that every middle and high school classroom , including specialty rooms like art and dance rooms, are fully scheduled every period, which is impossible in most schools.  By doing this they added more than 20,000 high school seats, and more than 2500 middle school seats, without building or expanding a single school.

Last year, the DOE cut the capacity portion of the capital plan by $1.4 billion and slashed the number of new seats by over 11,000, including more than 4,000 seats  from Queens and nearly 4,000 from the Bronx.  The SCA still has not fully complied with two laws, Local 167 and Local 168, passed in 2018, that was supposed to make their seat needs projections more transparent and accountable and also to accelerate finding sites for new schools.

If the admission system were improved to more equitably distribute students across schools, it would also be far easier to meet the benchmarks in the law. Too many schools  are over 150% capacity and others are less than 50%, sometimes even in the case of neighboring schools.  If not addressed, this imbalance will make reducing class size far more difficult and expensive to achieve.  Merging schools should also be considered as a strategy to create additional space more efficiently, as small schools co-located in the same building often sacrifice classrooms through the duplication of administrative and specialty spaces

How can you help?

Though the new law says that the plan should be developed in collaboration with the UFT and the CSA, we are recommending that a task force be created including parents, students advocates and experts to help develop an efficient and equitable class size reduction plan and ensure that it is properly implemented.

We have a letter to the DOE, UFT and CSA posted here.  Please email your Council Members and/or CECs to ask them to sign on, by entering their info in here.  We also have a sample resolution here that any parent group should pass.  We also have a survey we would like you to take about impact of budget cuts on schools this year at https://tinyurl.com/NYCBudgetcutSurvey

If you have questions, or want a briefing for your CEC or your community group, please email info@classsizematters.org.  To keep updated on the class size reduction plan and implementation,  please subscribe to our newsletter at  https://classsizematters.org/sign-up-for-our-newsletter/ .


Categories Reports & Memos, Uncategorized, Updates | Tags: | Posted on September 28, 2022

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