Friday, September 27, 2013

Almost a quarter of a million students sitting in classes so large they violate the union contract

Yesterday, Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, along with Manhattan Borough President Stringer (who will also be our next City Comptroller) and Class Size Matters held a press conference, to announce that
6,313 classes throughout the city are in violation of the contractual class size limits – 25 per class in Kindergarten, and 32-34 in most other grades.  (For the exact limits by grade, see our fact sheet here.)  Of course, these limits are far higher than the Contract for Excellence goals of 20 in grades K-3,  23 in middle schools, and 25 in high schools that the city promised the state to achieve by 2012.
The number of classes that violate the union rules is 200 more classes than last year at this time, and an estimated 230,000 students are now sitting in ridiculously large classes that the DOE takes up to six months to address.
See Daily News and NY1 on this issue, including interviews with some of the affected students at Cardozo HS in Queens, who don’t yet have desks or a set schedule. 
Though Queens HS are the most affected because of overcrowding, the DOE plans to put more co-locations in some of these high schools next year, which will cause even MORE overcrowding– a critical impact that is completely unmentioned in the Educational Impact Statements DOE is required to produce.  Below is what I said at the press conference:
When Michael Bloomberg ran for office in 2002, he promised he would reduce class sizes in Kindergarten – 3rd grade in all schools to 20 or less; instead now we have the largest classes in these grades in 15 years.
In 2007, the DOE promised to the state to reduce class size in all grades in return for hundreds of millions of dollars in Contract for Excellence funds.  Instead class size has increased every year in all grades -- since then.
Each year that the DOE’s parent survey has been given, smaller classes are the #1 priority of public school parents.  This administration claims to be devoted to responding to parental choice; yet it is clear that Bloomberg and the people he has put in charge of the DOE has no real interest in giving public school parents their top choice for their kids.
86% of NYC principals say they are unable to provide a quality education because of overly large classes, and yet they say that when they try to reduce class size, DOE just sends them more students, undercutting their efforts.
The DOE has worked in myriad other ways to increase class size:

      Since 2007, DOE has cut school budgets 14%.
      In 2010, DOE eliminated Early grade class size funding for grades K-3– despite their promise to the state to maintain it.
      In 2011, DOE decided no longer to adhere to a side agreement to cap class sizes in 1st-3rd grades at 28, leading to tripling of number of classes with 30 or more students in these grades.
      In 2012, DOE instructed principals they must accommodate special needs students up to contractual class size maximums.
      DOE has taken out all class size standards out of the instructional footprint that determines where new co-located schools will go – which forces class sizes up in these buildings.

Sadly, whoever is elected mayor and whatever his goals and policies on class size will have a difficult job ahead of him in improving student outcomes, b/c the research shows that large classes in the early grades leave their imprint on children for years to come. 
This is the sorry education legacy of Michael Bloomberg and one that will not be easy for any mayor to overcome.