FAQ on the state’s new class size law

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Updated May 23, 2023


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


On June 2, 2022, the NY State Legislature overwhelming passed a new class size bill by a vote of 59-4 in the Senate and 147-2 in the Assembly that requires NYC schools to 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 that the five-year phase-in period should begin in Sept. 2023 instead.

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

The law calls for the phase-in over five years of 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. These are the same class sizes in NYC’s original Contract for excellence plan that was approved by the NY State Education Department in 2007 though never implemented by the Department of Education, yet now as class size caps rather than averages.

Each year starting in September 2023, 20 percent of all academic 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 42% of classes were at or below these class size caps last year, but only 38% of classes this year, because of 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 class size benchmarks in the law.

If the DOE has not met these benchmarks, the State Education Department will order DOE develop a corrective action plan to ensure that they meet the goals in the following year, signed off by UFT and the CSA,

and certified by the NYC Comptroller as allocating sufficient funding to achieve the plan’s future goals. If the city does not adhere to the correction plan, the state can hold back education funding.

Are there enough quality teachers to staff class size reduction?

The DOE has contracted the overall full-time K12 teaching force by about 4,000 since FY 2019. It is important for this trend to be reversed to ensure there are sufficient teachers to staff the smaller classes in the out years, especially in shortage areas. In the long run, reducing class size may help recruit and retain high-quality teachers. Roughly 4,000 – 4,500 NYC teachers also resign or retire every year, and many cite excessive class sizes as a reason. Class size reduction has been shown to lower teacher turnover, meaning that smaller classes are likely to lead to a more experienced, effective teaching force over time.

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

Planning should have begun as soon as the law was passed. Yet there is no evidence that DOE has done so. In April, DOE appointed a Class Size Work Group composed of parents, teachers, advocates, and administrators to start developing a plan, but their work has just begun, and their recommendations are not due till next fall.

According to the state law, borough public hearings and briefings to CECs to elicit public feedback on the city’s plan should begin soon, to hear from parents and other concerned citizens as to what the first year of the class size plan will include.

Emphasis should be placed on an expanded and accelerated capital plan to provide enough space to lower class size in our most overcrowded districts within the timeline established by the law. Last year, 27% of schools were at or over 100% of their capacity, enrolling more than 300,000 students, and yet the DOE has proposed cutting new capacity by more than $2 billion and funding for more than 22,000 new seats in the capital plan.  This is unacceptable, as it takes about five years to site and build a new school, so there is no time to waste.

If enrollment were capped at lower levels at the most overcrowded schools, it would also be easier to meet the benchmarks in the law. Too many schools are over 150% capacity and others are severely under-capacity, sometimes sitting close by.

It is also important that the DOE not continue to cut school budgets which causes class sizes to increase rather than decrease. The school funding system must be revamped, either by aligning the Fair Student Funding system with smaller classes or by creating a separate budget allocation to ensure schools can hire sufficient teachers to meet the benchmarks in the law,. This is how 3K and PreK classes in public schools are funded, outside the FSF system, to ensure that they meet their legally required class size caps of 15-18 students.

How can you help?

The DOE is holding hearings on their draft class size plan starting June 1.  To volunteer to speak for Class Size Matters, you can sign up at tinyurl.com/classsizehearings.  Subscribe to the Class Size Matters newsletter at tinyurl.com/CSMsubscribe to be alerted to new developments and how you can help, including the public hearings on DOE’s class size plan. We are also cohosting a Parent Action Conference on Saturday June 10, starting at 9 :30 AM at the Seward Park Campus, 350 Grand Street, where this issue as well as many others of concern to parents will be discussed. To RSVP, go  to tinyurl.com/ParentActionConference23  Any questions, you can email us at info@classsizematters.org


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

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