Year in Review and How You Can Help

December 28, 2015

Dear Friend,

Please consider giving a tax-deductible donation to Class Size Matters by clicking here. Right before Christmas, Juan Gonzalez of the NY Daily News wrote a column reporting how the NYC Department of Education had rebid a contract for computer equipment and internet wiring that had been originally been approved at $1.1 billion over five years, renewable for four more years at $2 billion. Even worse than this huge amount was the fact that the contract was to be awarded to Custom Computer Specialists, a company implicated in a kickback scheme that had defrauded the DOE of millions of dollars just a few years earlier.

As Juan describes, after Class Size Matters blew the whistle, the contract was hurriedly renegotiated down to $635 million over five years, providing even more evidence of an inflated amount.  Though Public Advocate Letitia James and City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal expressed their opposition, it was approved by the Panel for Educational Policy, made up of a majority of mayoral appointees, in a 10-1 vote.  Luckily, one month later, City Hall reconsidered and rejected the contract, the first time this has ever happened in the history of the DOE.

The same equipment and services, according to the DOE, now divided among several different contractors, will cost the city only $472 million over five years, $163 million less than the renegotiated amount and $627 million less than when we first blew the whistle.  We believe that we may have actually helped save the city $727 million in all, taking into account the improved likelihood of $100 million in federal reimbursement, as explained in my blog here.

Juan Gonzalez writes that Class Size Matters should receive a “finder’s fee,” or at the least, that Chancellor Farina should spend the money reducing class size.  We agree; and have proposed that the city should allocate $125 million towards doubling the school seats in the capital plan to alleviate overcrowding, and another $125 million to hire more teachers, as the first step towards lowering class size throughout the city.

In any case, if you support our work, as a budget watch-dog or as an advocate for smaller classes, student privacy or parent empowerment, please consider giving to Class Size Matters, as we rely on your tax-deductible donation to keep our organization going.

Along with blowing the whistle on this egregious contract in February, in March, we helped organize “Protect our schools” rallies throughout the city, where thousands of teachers, parents, and students formed human chains around their schools,  to protest the Governor’s threatened budget cuts and damaging charter takeover proposals.

In April, we won our lawsuit against the DOE to ensure that School Leadership Team meetings remain open to the public.  Justice Peter Moulton agreed with us and the Public Advocate that DOE was violating the law by closing these meetings, and that the DOE was wrong in arguing that SLTs, composed of half parents and half school staff, have only “advisory” powers.  Though the DOE is appealing this decision, we are confident we will eventually prevail in court.

Our analysis of a need for at least 100,000 additional school seats to alleviate overcrowding has been widely cited in the media and elsewhere.  We are spearheading a campaign not only to double the number of school seats but also to create a taskforce or commission to improve the accuracy and efficiency of school siting and planning.  In June, the Public Advocate, twenty-two Councilmembers and many parent leaders sent a letter to the Mayor and Chancellor, urging them to do take these important steps.

Along with NYC Kids PAC, we released an Education Report Card for the Mayor in the spring, in which he received mixed grades in several categories for failing to fulfill his campaign promises in many critical areas, including class size. This fall, we co-hosted a Parent Action Conference in Brooklyn, with workshops on topics ranging from the Common Core, testing and Mayoral control to School Leadership Teams and overcrowding.

When the DOE’s class size data was released last month, we showed how the number of students in extremely large class sizes in the early grades has nearly doubled since 2011, with more than 48,000 children in grades K-3 crammed into classes of 30 or more.   Our findings were reported in the Daily News and in a critical editorial admonishing the Mayor in AMNY.  Our City Council testimony about Renewal schools showed that despite repeated DOE promises, class sizes have still not be reduced in nearly half of all the Renewal schools, and the vast majority of these struggling schools continue to have classes of thirty students or more.

The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, a national organization we co-founded in 2014 following our defeat of inBloom, continues to make waves.  We have written op-eds and have been quoted widely on the need to protect sensitive, personally identifiable student information from breach or abuse.  At the same time, we are working to inform parents about what they should demand in terms of privacy and security protections for their children’s data.

As part of our work with the state-wide coalition, NY State Allies for Education, we urged parents to opt out of the defective Common Core exams, leading to an unprecedented 240,000 students refusing to take the state tests last spring.  The opt out movement and nationwide rebellion against the flawed Common Core standards has led to significant revisions in the federal education law, and has  caused a  growing recognition among state policymakers that it is wrong to use badly designed tests and inappropriate standards to label kids, teachers, and schools as failing.

But many challenges remain. The need for student privacy protections is more critical than ever, especially as the use of digital learning and data-mining software in schools is expanding recklessly. Meanwhile, in NYC, excessive class sizes and school overcrowding continues to worsen, without any commitment on the part of the Chancellor or the Mayor to address the problem.

Please help us fight for students to be provided with smaller classes and real personalized learning, rather than instruction delivered via computers.  We also need your support to advocate for every student’s right to privacy, and for parents to have a voice in how their children’s schools are run.  Finally, we intend to redouble our focus on how the city can save millions of dollars, by reducing waste and eliminating fraud.

Thank you immensely if you’ve given to Class Size Matters before and please give again as generously as you can.   Just donate online at If you’d prefer to send a check, address the envelope to Class Size Matters, 124 Waverly Pl., New York, NY 10011.

Have a wonderful New Year,


Leonie Haimson

Executive Director

Class Size Matters

124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011

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Categories Newsletters, Recent Newsletters, Updates | Tags: | Posted on December 28, 2015

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