By Stephon Johnson
While many New Yorkers paid attention to the extension of mayoral control of schools, others focused on capping size classes in New York City.
Both emerged victorious.
Right before the state legislature went into recess, the State Assembly passed a bill capping the number of students allowed in each classroom depending on grade. Sponsored by New York State Assembly Member Manny De Los Santos, MSW (District 72), the schools chancellor would work in tandem with teacher and principal unions.
Those plans come with specific class size targets based on grade level with a deadline of September 2027. The plan would also include exemptions to places with limited space, places that are economically distressed, that have large student enrollment, or that have a shortage of teacher licenses.
“Based on my decade of experience as a school social worker, I know that capping the size of classes in city schools will be transformative in improving academic performance for students who need it most,” stated De Los Santos. “My legislation would ensure that the New York City School District is making meaningful progress towards that goal.”
But De Los Santos wasn’t the only elected official who played a role. During last week, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said that other elected officials listened and then acted on parent and teacher concerns.
“New York City’s public school community can thank the leadership of the New York State Legislature, as well as NYC Education Chair State Senator John Liu and Assembly Education Committee Chair Michael Benedetto, and Member of the Assembly Education Committee Manny De Los Santos, lead champions of this legislation, who have heard the call of parents who have been demanding reasonable class sizes for our city’s children,” stated Mulgrew.
State Senators Robert Jackson (D-31) and Kevin Parker (D-21) co-sponsored the legislation as well.
Mulgrew, like many of his constituents in the UFT, believes that private schools with smaller classes have shown that when you have more time to devote to students, they’ll perform better in class.
According to the union, state’s figures show that 663 of New York’s 675 public school districts have lower class size than New York City. The union also used a Department of Education’s space survey to show that close to 90% of the system’s current buildings could adopt the new class size guidelines, which could bring elementary to junior high school classes from an average of 25 students to 20 and high school classrooms from 34 to 25.
The plan also makes the neediest schools the priority in dealing with class sizes.
Members of activist organizations were pleased with the bill taking positive steps for confirmation in Albany.
Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matter, stated that this legislation would help students of color the most since they make up the majority of New York City public school students.
“If this law is enacted, it will transform New York City schools by finally ensuring smaller classes in all grades,” said Haimson. “For too long, city students have struggled in classes that are 15 to 30 percent larger than those in the rest of the state. These excessive class sizes have deprived them of the close feedback and support of their teachers that they need to succeed, a glaring inequity.”
“For years, parents, educators and advocates have fought to reduce class sizes in NYC public schools in order to ensure students get the individualized attention they need to succeed,” added Jasmine Gripper, executive director for the Alliance for Quality Education. “Senator Robert Jackson stood with parents to lead the fight to fully fund Foundation Aid to ensure NYC schools would have the resources to significantly lower class sizes.”
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