New York City

Report: NYC class sizes still too big, ten years after historic court ruling

$3 billions still owed to city

December 19, 2013 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Class sizes in New York City public schools are now the largest in fifteen years, exceeding the levels ordered in a 2003 court ruling, according to the Education Law Center, a public interest law firm specializing in education.

In the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) ruling, the New York Court of Appeals ordered New York State to provide funds to city schools to reduce class size, reasoning that overly large classes impair children’s ability to learn. The court noted, “The number of children in these straits is large enough to represent a systemic failure.”

According to the Education Law Center, in 1998, over half of New York City students in kindergarten through third grade were in class sizes of 26 or more and “tens of thousands are in classes of over 30.”

More than ten years after the CFE ruling, however, average class size is as large as it was when the CFE case went to trial.

“Class sizes in the early grades are now the largest in 15 years,” Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters said in a statement. “In a recent survey, 86 percent of New York City principals say they are unable to provide a quality education because classes are too large.”

The increase in class sizes is a result of the state not funding class size reductions, said Wendy Lecker, Senior Attorney for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity Project at Education Law Center. New York state cut the amount of money provided to the city because of a budget shortfall. In 2009, aid was frozen at 37.5 percent of the four-year target, and aid was cut by $2.7 billion in 2010 and 2011.

Lecker said that the incoming state and city administrations must make education a priority.

Mayor Bloomberg has long held that class size is unimportant. In December 2011 he was famously quoted as saying, “Double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for students.”

Bloomberg’s own child, however, attended a private school with class sizes of roughly a dozen kids per classroom.

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, a public school parent and former school board member, sent both of his children to public school.

De Blasio has said he is committed to fighting for the $3 billion in state funding owed to the city. He also is mulling other moves to reduce the number of kids in the classroom, such as creating Early Education Centers that will free up classroom space currently used for pre-K.

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