The rally for smaller classes followed by three misleading claims from the DOE & SCA at the class size hearings

By Leonie Haimson & Michael Rance

On February 29, dozens of public officials, teachers, parents, and advocates gathered at City Hall and spoke up passionately for smaller classes and the class size law. We’ve included a video of the press conference above, which includes some remarks by Leonie, our Executive Director. Thanks to everyone who came, and also those who testified publicly both in person and online. It was inspiring to see so many people show up for smaller classes.

Unfortunately, the DOE and SCA’s testimony during the hearing was less than inspiring, in fact quite depressing. The testimony of DOE and SCA officials was riddled with fudging, obfuscations, and misstatements of fact.  Below we’ll highlight three of these misleading statements, which you can find on the recording of the hearing here.

Weisberg falsely claimed that principals are able to cap enrollment at their schools to reduce class size if they wanted to, even though DOE had previously told them they could not:

During the hearing, at 1:30:30, Council Member Shekar Krishnan pressed the DOE officials on whether they had allowed principals to ask for lower enrollment at overcrowded schools to help them lower class size:

“So then what is the communication with principals? Are they permitted to ask for going under the cap next year in terms of enrollment? Are you all encouraging them or discouraging them from doing that?”

At first, COO Emma Vadehra evaded the question, saying that the DOE “chose to make no system-wide decisions about that.” Deputy Chancellor Dan Weisberg then argued that there wouldn’t be many principals who would want to cap enrollment in their schools,  “… but we’re not prohibiting them from doing that.”

This is contrary to a memo that DOE sent out to principals in December 2023 saying clearly that “Principals should not request changes to their register projections for the 2024-25 school year in anticipation of future implementation of the new class size law.

Weisberg obfuscated the fact that the city is planning to shrink the teaching force over the next two years:

The recently released NYC Financial Plan reveals how the administration plans to further reduce the headcount of the full-time teaching force by 2,700 over the next two years, contrary to the need to hire thousands of additional teachers to comply with the class size law.

CM Krishnan asked, “In terms of the city’s financial plan, are you all projecting a loss of 2,708 more full time teachers over the next two years? And how is that going to work if what we’ve talked about today is more teachers?

In response, Weisberg fudged (1:34:24):,

“Yeah I’m not sure… we would need to check… I’m not sure, I’m sure that number is reflected in the financial plan, that’s not our HR projection necessarily, so we’d need to analyze that and see where that number comes from.”

Of course, it is in their own HR projections, at least the first year of decline of 889 full-time pedagogues next year, as captured in the Council budget briefing paper, on p. 29 here.  Why would DOE’s HR plan not be aligned to the city’s overall financial plan?  It’s hard to believe Weisberg could have been so confused, especially as DOE was provided with this question in advance of the hearing.

Nina Kubota of the School Construction Authority falsely claimed that their refusal to divulge where new seats will be built is only temporary:

The proposed 2025-2029 Capital Plan is the least transparent Capital Plan in memory. 77% of the new school seats in the plan aren’t identified as to district, borough, or even grade levels – contrary to two state laws, including the new class size law, which requiresthe annual capital plan for school construction and leasing to show how many classrooms will be added in each year and in which schools and districts to achieve the class size targets.”

At 1:53:00, Education Chair Joseph asked School Construction Authority President Nina Kubota whether she thought this lack of transparency was compliant with the law. Kubota replied;

“…We don’t know exactly what locations, if there’s a need to build a school next to a currently overutilized or projected overutilized school, is there space? Is there available real estate? We don’t know that. I think while we further refine the data is when we’ll see those recommendations come out…”

Actually, the five-year plan instead proclaims that the location of new capacity projects will never be listed in advance, but only “following the identification of a suitable site and the commencement of the school facility’s design process.”

Here is our written testimony, and our verbal comments are at 3:00:50. Here is the written testimony from UFT’s Mike Sill, who at 2:29:30 rebutted other points made by the DOE and SCA. Additionally, you can check out the excellent testimony from the Educational Council Consortium.

Categories Uncategorized, Updates | Tags: | Posted on March 7, 2024

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