Our testimony at yesterday’s Council hearing on class size, where the DOE refused to commit to any action to lower class size, now or in the future

March 1, 2024

The DOE performance at the class size hearing yesterday at the City Council was very depressing. Despite urging by Council Education Chair Rita Joseph and other Council Members, Senators Liu and Robert Jackson, UFT leaders, and many parents, DOE officials refused to commit to any steps to lower class size.  Instead, COO Emma Vadehra, Deputy Chancellor Weisberg, and SCA President Nina Kubota continually made excuses for delay, and claimed that the supposed tradeoffs to lowering class size were too damaging.

Yet no tradeoffs are necessary, unless the DOE refuses to spend a single extra penny to lower class size; which is their position now. Clearly, if school budgets remain static or decline, as they currently project, the funding will have to come out of somewhere else.  But not only has the DOE received $1.3 billion from the state as part of the CFE settlement that should have been used to lower class size, as Sen. Liu pointed out, but the city also has a budget surplus of $3.3 billion expected for next year, according to the IBO.

Vadehra and Weisberg even refused to say whether they would adopt any of the proposals of their own appointed Class Size Working Group — including suggestions that would be cost free or even cost saving, such as adjusting enrollment between overcrowded and underutilized schools.  They also failed to explain why the City’s Financial Plan shows how the city plans   to save money by continuing to shrink the teaching force by nearly 3,000 full-time teachers over the next two years, as well as cut the funding for new school construction in half, which will  make it impossible to lower class size and comply with the law. Of course, the longer they wait to implement a real plan, the more they risk truly damaging disruptions to our schools and/or that the state will hold back funding, which is the main enforcement mechanism in the law.

I will have a more detailed account soon, including a description of some of many misleading statements and outright mistruths uttered by the DOE and SCA officials who testified at the hearing.  I will also post a video of the rally that preceded the hearing. But meanwhile, here are some news clips from City and State and Gothamist.  You can also check out my twitter thread from yesterday. Sadly, too many of the other media outlets persist in parroting the DOE talking point that lowering class size would be somehow inequitable,  because the highest need schools already have small enough classes.

Yet in the  testimony below, we show how to the contrary,  NYC schools with the highest weighted need have the largest classes on average.  The weighted need formula was devised by NYSED to take into account both the percentage and number of high needs students in every school, and DOE is supposed to send the majority of C4E funds to those schools with the highest weighted need.

The DOE’s analysis is  misleading, because they categorize schools only by their percentage of high needs students, no matter how small the school is and how few actual high-needs students it enrolls.  In any case, as I also point out in my testimony, high need students exist in every school in the city, and as voluminous research shows, these are the students who will benefit the most from smaller classes.

Thus, class size reduction is inherently equitable, and a citywide approach is critical to reach all the students who need smaller classes the most.


Categories Testimonies & Comments, Uncategorized, Updates | Tags: | Posted on March 1, 2024

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