Last spring, May 23, 2019 , attorney Wendy Lecker of the Education Law Center filed our appeal on behalf of nine NYC parents, Class Size Matters and the Alliance for Quality Education. We sued the State Education Commissioner and the Chancellor, and urged the Appellate court to order the NYC Department of Education to reduce class size in all grades as the Contracts for Excellence law requires.
Our original lawsuit, Agostini vs. Elia, was filed in April 2018 when then-NYS Education Commissioner Elia refused to take action to enforce the Contracts for Excellence law in response to our original complaint.
The C4E law was first approved in 2007 and required NYC to lower class size; instead class sizes increased sharply and remain at levels far higher than when that law was passed.
Yet in December 2018, Acting Supreme Court Judge Henry Zwack ruled against us in a skimpy decision that engaged with neither the law or the facts of the case; instead he claimed that this was merely a matter for Commissioner Elia to decide.
Commissioner Elia had argued that any class size obligations on the part of the DOE had lapsed years ago. Yet as our appeal points out, if the Legislature wanted to eliminate this key legal obligation on the part of the city they would have done so, rather than renewing the provision every year. Thus, the DOE's failure to lower class size is a continuing violation of law, and since the State Education Department has refused to hold city officials accountable for providing students with their constitutional right to a sound basic education, which includes smaller classes according to the Court of Appeals in the original CFE lawsuit, we have been forced to do so instead.
Unlike Judge Zwack, the Appellate Court has asked for copious back-up data on class sizes in NYC schools, which as the above charts make clear, have indeed risen dramatically since 2007. Hopefully, that means these judges are engaged in the issue and will base their judgement on facts rather than the city's wishful thinking.