Debate continues on NYC school class sizes
A Department of Education-appointed working group recently released a report with suggestions on how to reduce classroom sizes in New York City public schools. It came after Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a law last year to limit sizes. However, the working group’s report was not unanimous.
“It’s beyond idealistic, it’s magical thinking,” said Deborah Alexander, a Class Size Working Group dissenter. “The majority opinion basically says build more schools, get more funding, hire more teachers. These aren’t actionable suggestions.”
Alexander says this because the city is facing a $5.8 billion budget gap in fiscal year 2025 and the DOE was hit hard by Mayor Eric Adams’ recent budget cuts. She says just hiring enough teachers could cost up to $1.9 billion. The majority plan also suggests capping enrollment. “Cutting enrollment means losing money, so the money follows the child. If you lose students you lose funding,” she said.
But Alexander’s voice is just the dissenting opinion. The working group was made up of families, educators and advocates. Many feel that this can happen with key policy changes and investments. Joanna Garcia was the co-chair of the group and is in the majority.
“Our schools have been underfunded for decades because the funding from the Foundation Aid formula wasn’t being provided to New York City schools. This is the first school year that the full funding is there and that’s going to continue and that’s upwards of millions,” she told News 12 New York. “It’s very dangerous of us to take the defeatist attitude to something that’s a law to improve the quality of education."
City Hall referred News 12 to the DOE for comment.
“The law requires that 20% of classes be in compliance this year, and we are currently at twice that amount. However, the work to remain in compliance will take changes, tradeoffs and additional resources across NYCPS,” said DOE Chancellor David C. Banks in a statement.
But Garcia says instead of talking about trading off, officials need to be discussing, “Trading up. I think that the majority of our students when they end up in small class sizes where they get individualized learning and care and attention, they’re actually trading up. And that’s what we want to do with our school system,” she said.
The dissenting plan has also been presented to the DOE. Alexander says it’s up to them to make the next move.
New York City has until 2028 to be in full compliance with the law.