Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Our rally/press conference this morning, urging Gov. Hochul to sign the class size bill as soon as possible

This morning we held a press conference at City Hall Park, along with State Legislators, advocates, parents, teachers and Congressman Jamaal Bowman, urging Gov. Hochul to sign the class size bill as soon as possible.  

This bill was passed with overwhelming support in the State legislature on June 3, and whose enactment would help prevent or minimize some of the drastic cuts to schools that the Mayor and the Chancellor have proposed.  Thirty eight elected officials, including from Congress, the Legislature, and the City Council have signed a letter, asking her to do so.

The presser was organized by Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas, who are both mothers with children in the NYC public schools and are distraught about how their schools will be losing teachers and programs next year due to the Mayor's savage cuts.

 Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas


Chris Nelson, a parent at Arts and Letters school in Brooklyn spoke about how her son has finally been able to have the benefit of smaller classes this year, as a result of the enrollment decline, and has thrived as a result; and how destructive it would be to force class sizes upwards again.

Rep. Bowman was eloquent about how as a former principal, he knows how crucial class size is to the quality of education students receive, and how unfair it is that children in part of his district in Scarsdale are provided with far smaller classes than the Bronx children in another part of his district.

He added that these cuts will hamper the city's ability not just to improve education, but also public safety, health and the city's economy -- and that they are inexcusable, given the $8 billion the federal government has sent to NYC schools to help our students recover from the multiple disruptions and traumas of the pandemic.


Senator Jabari Brisport, a former teacher, agreed that smaller classes were desperately needed in the city schools; and Sen. Robert Jackson spoke about his twenty-year effort to ensure education equity for NYC students, first as the original plaintiff in the CFE lawsuit and now as the original sponsor of the class size bill last session.  

Zakiyah Ansari of AQE spoke about their fight to get full Foundation Aid to NYC schools, which was finally achieved and will be fulfilled over the next two years, to the tune of $1.3 billion, and smaller classes should be the result of that successful struggle.

Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon spoke as former special ed teacher and attorney, and an expert on dyslexia.  She pointed out that the Mayor's literacy initiative, while laudable, will not work with large class sizes.  

Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon

Rep. Bowman,  Sen. Brisport, our petition and me

My brief speech and  a copy of the petition we emailed to the Governor tonight is below, signed by more than 7,000 of her constituents.  


Many of the petition signers added comments and explanations of why it is critical that she sign the bill now, to prevent these cuts and begin the crucial process of reducing class size now.




Saturday, June 25, 2022

Angry questions from Council Members met with incredible claims by Deputy Chancellor Weisberg at the budget hearings yesterday

Speaker Adams, Ed Chair Joseph & Oversight Chair Brewer

The budget hearings yesterday were pretty explosive. I've never seen so many Council Members at hearing at once, including the Speaker, so angrily question the DOE, furious about how many teachers  have been excessed as a result.  Several of the members had children in public schools and related how their principals had come up to them, distressed because they had to lay off their teachers and lose their arts programs or other valuable services to kids.

Speaker Adams asked Deputy Chancellor Dan Weisberg if he had anticipated the impact of these cuts on schools.  He responded, yes, but implied it was no big deal, and this happens every year.  He made two unbelievable claims:  one, that the numbers of teachers excessed this year were fewer than during the previous two years, though he couldn't supply a figure.  

He also claimed that he didn't expect any Absent Teacher Reserve to be created as a result, because all these teachers would somehow find positions elsewhere, even though he admitted the vast majority of schools had seen cuts.  Indeed, he asserted that NYC schools would be hiring "thousand of teachers."

Deputy Chancellor Dan Weisberg and DOE CFO Lindsey Oates

DOE Chief Financial Officer Lindsey Oates admitted that many other budget lines were cut in addition to Fair Student Funding.  She also admitted that there were $4.5 billion in unspent federal stimulus funds that the DOE intended to use elsewhere.  She then claimed the leaked internal DOE briefing we  posted that revealed an additional $1.1 billion that schools hadn't spent and were told to return to Central because  “These are real dollars that could be used for other purposes.” was merely a "training memo" and that it didn't mean what it said.

 CM Restler
Perhaps the angriest Council Member appeared to be Lincoln Restler, who said he was "red hot mad" , held up a list of the millions of dollars cut from the schools in his district, and said that the DOE had assured the Council that the cuts would only affect vacant positions.  

There is some evidence for this in the Council briefing sheet,  which reports "Administration maintains that this budget action aligns DOE’s budget with actual headcount ...and that the 3,227 [teaching] positions are vacant."  

Sadly, too many reporters have echoed this false claim by DOE,  except for Jill Jorgensen of NY1, who accurately reported that if enacted, the Mayor's Preliminary budget would cause schools to lose actual teachers when the budget was first released in February.

CM Shekar Krishnan asked why the Chancellor wasn't there to answer their questions.  Weisberg said that he and Oates were better equipped to address the sort of "technical" issues that the hearings dealt with.  Krishnan pointed out that the $215M in Fair student funding cuts were less than 1% of the entire DOE budget, and he was incredulous that the funds couldn't be found to reverse them.  CM Brewer insisted that if they gave her a spreadsheet with all the details of DOE spending, she could find enough funds in a few minutes. 

Many other members pointed out that these cuts would surely increase class size, the opposite of what the law required just passed by the Legislature, which obligates NYC to be lowering class size starting next fall.  Weisberg responded that they had people working on such a plan, in case the Governor signs the bill.  Really!

One of the main sponsors of the state legislature,  Senator Robert Jackson proclaimed, "These cuts must be

eliminated, no ifs, ands, or buts! Schools should not be penalized for having a reasonable student teacher ratio." He urged the Council to "Stand up & fight back. Time is now!"
NYC Comptroller Brad Lander

NYC Comptroller Brad Lander testified
that the FSF cuts were larger than DOE had reported, and amounted to a net reduction of $372 million—and for schools losing money,  a total of $469 million, with an average FSF loss of  $402,456.  

He also cited our finding that the "FSF reductions are just a piece of the estimated $1.7 billion in Galaxy school budget losses facing our schools. Unfortunately, given limited transparency on what those overall budget losses represent, we cannot fully assess what that $1.7 billion means for our schools."  

We have heard from principals and from the DOE itself that any funds added to Galaxy budgets after the June 13 date on which we did our calculations cannot be used to pay for staffing in any case.  

Lander also pointed out that with rising tax revenues, there was no reason that the city couldn't sacrifice some its own surplus to fill the gap:

It is also important to remember that, while enrollment has been declining, the City tax revenue and State aid that provide the vast majority of school funding is not based on the number of students. So reductions in enrollment could be an opportunity—with the funding and space we already have— for reductions in class size that we’ve long desired.

In our testimony below, we reported how 98% of schools or 1,535 lost Galaxy funding, while only 29 schools gained funding. The average cut per school was $1.1 million, or 13.9%.  We also explained how unnecessary these cuts are given the huge budget surplus and reserves that the DOE and the city currently has.    

Cuts to schools are always tragic in my eyes, but are especially inexcusable when the city is flush with cash and our kids need the close attention and support of their teachers more than ever before. 

Nearly twenty years ago, by cutting school budgets and closing schools, Bloomberg/Klein/ and their labor chief, Dan Weisberg, caused the excessing of thousands of teachers, creating something called the Absent Teacher Reserve fund, while paying their full salaries at more than $100 million per year- even at a time of rising class sizes.  Clearly they hoped that the political backlash to this ridiculous wasteful policy would be strong enough to force the union into allowing these teachers to be fired. 

We argued strenuously that these teachers should be allowed to teach, and put back into the classroom where they belong, and eventually under Mayor de Blasio, DOE allowed  teachers in the ATR pool to be placed back into classrooms.  

In 2017,  as head of TNTP, the organization founded by Michelle Rhee, Weisberg inveighed against providing these teachers with permanent positions, and again last year, when he argued, "It trumps the interest of kids."  

Is it really better for kids to let their class sizes increase while their teachers are paid to stay home ?  Despite all his claims that there will be no ATR pool again, I suspect there will be and he will resume this tired old argument and wasteful practice now that he is Deputy Chancellor, unless these awful school budget cuts are reversed.

Anyway, if you want to hear more of the trenchant questions asked by Council Members and the often clumsy deflections by Weisberg and Oates, you can follow my twitter feed from yesterday @leoniehaimson or watch the video here.  

Our written testimony is below. 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Invitation to our June 27 "Skinny award" dinner; and please sign our petition to Gov. Hochul to sign the class size bill now!


Dear folks-

Class Size Matters would like to invite you to our “Skinny Award” dinner to be held Monday, June 27 at 6 PM. This our first fundraiser in three years, and especially important this year as we have something really momentous to celebrate: the passage of a new state law that will require NYC schools to lower class size to much smaller levels.

We are honoring the groups and individuals who made this happen, and thus gave us the real “Skinny” on NYC schools:

  • The Alliance for Quality Education, for leading the successful battle to provide full Foundation aid to NYC schools at last;
  • State Senator Robert Jackson and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, for introducing the original bills requiring our schools to lower class size;
  • Assembly Education Chair Michael Benedetto and NYC Senate Education Chair John Liu, for shepherding the class size bill to passage this session;
  • A special "Parent Visionary" award to Johanna Garcia, education advocate and Chief of Staff to Sen. Jackson, for her persistent and passionate advocacy over many years to achieve the goal of fully equitable class sizes for NYC children.

Wine and light food will be served!

For more information and to purchase tickets to attend either in person or remotely, please click here. If you’d like to contribute to the organization without attending, you can do so here.

2. Sadly, despite all our advocacy, briefings and testimony, and all your emails and calls, the City Council agreed to a budget deal with the Mayor that did not restore any of the $215 million cuts to school budgets for next year; a deal that will be voted on tomorrow night. It is likely that in many schools, this will force class sizes higher and/or cause the loss of critical services, and I urge you to work with your School Leadership Teams to try to ensure that your school's core teaching staff is protected as much as possible.

Clearly, Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks have no intention of obeying the will of the Legislature to require them to lower class size, and instead are thumbing their nose at them, as I say here. Which makes it even more critical that Governor Hochul to sign the class size bill as soon as possible, which will give us legal leverage to stop these cuts or at least minimize their damage.

So please, call the Governor at 518-474-8390 , and message her here. Tell her: Please sign the class size bill as soon as possible so that NYC class sizes do not increase and instead, our students are provided with the same smaller classes that kids in the rest of the state already receive. We have also posted a petition that you can sign here.

I’ll be in Albany on Thursday, and if we get enough signatures, I’ll try to deliver it personally to her and/or her staff.

Hope to see you on June 27!

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Four simple steps to take to stop devastating cuts to school budgets

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Huge budget cuts released for our schools; call the City Council to tell them no!

 June 7, 2022

Yesterday, school budgets for next year were released, and many if not most schools are facing MILLIONS of dollars in cuts compared to this year.  A good article about these proposed cuts is here.

You can find out how much your school’s budget has been cut by plugging its 4 digit DBN code into the DOE webpage here; and compare your school’s total Galaxy budget from 2022 to 2023 by scrolling to the bottom of the page and checking the Grand Total. (If you don’t know your school’s 4 digit code, you can find it by putting its name on the school search page here.  The first letter refers to the borough; then there is a three digit number that follows.)  Some schools, like Fort Hamilton HS in D20, will be cut by as much as $8 million; Forest Hills HS by $4 million.   

Now DOE has been telling reporters that some budget lines will be added later in the summer and fall -- but those are for small and specialized programs, and principals are told to plan staffing based on this budget now.  Already, we're hearing of teachers being excessed as a result, and the DOE itself projected the loss of thousands of teaching positions based on these cuts in the Executive budget.

If enacted, these cuts will make class sizes increase sharply and cause the loss of essential services to kids.  Clearly, neither the Mayor nor the Chancellor are planning to abide by the language or the intent of the new state law passed last week requiring smaller classes.    Meanwhile, it has been reported that the Council may announce a budget deal with the Mayor as early as this week that would cement these cuts in place. 

What can parents and teachers do?

1.Call your Council Members today and tell them to vote against any budget deal that includes these egregious cuts, and to let the Speaker know now that they will vote against a city budget that contains them.  These cuts will tremendously hurt schools and the kids in their districts, and especially in light of the new state class size law, they are potentially illegal. You can find their phone nos. here.   

2. Then call the Speaker Adrienne Adams and leave the same message: 212-788-6850.  

3. Then ask your principal if they are willing to talk on or off the record to me or a reporter about the likely impact of these cuts. So far, many teachers are expressing their outrage on twitter, but so far, I’ve seen no principal speak out. If they are willing, have them email us at Their confidentiality will be protected.

But please make those calls today!

Thanks, Leonie