Wednesday, December 27, 2023

How small classes "can provide a turning point in a student's belief in themselves; letter from youth advocate Al Kurland to Commissioner Rosa

Along with a generous donation, I found this copy of a letter to Commissioner Rosa in an envelope sent by Al Kurland, a long-time youth advocate, urging her to require DOE to develop and implement a real class size reduction plan, in alignment with the new state law. AQE and Class Size Matters sent a similar if longer letter to her a few days earlier, pointing out how as of yet, DOE had done nothing to enable schools to meet the benchmarks in the law starting next year.  

Al's letter is so wonderful I thought I'd share it, as it resonates with everything we know about why smaller classes are so important.  You can read  about many of Al's accomplishments here.  Below he explains how small classes "can provide a turning point in a student's belief in themselves as learners in the development of becoming better informed and confident people." Take a look, and if you agree, donate to Class Size Matters to help make this turning point a reality for all NYC students.


December 2, 2023 

Betty Rosa, Commissioner of Education 

To Betty Rosa: 

I am contacting you in urgent appeal for maintaining and sustaining the crucial baseline of adhering to the recommended standards so eloquently pointed out by Class Size Matters and its allies. The evidence of its benefits to students and teachers has been amply established both by research and enhanced teacher-learner experiences in the classroom. 

I had been an after school youth services advocate and director for years, beginning in 1984 with the Uptown Dreamers and Southern Heights, and with the Police Athletic League from which I retired in 2020. Especially during the early years of my tenure, I saw the negative effects of students and teachers who had to deal with vastly overcrowded classrooms. The one constant I came to learn is that the smaller the ratio between student and teacher, i.e. the more time available for questions and answers, guided direction, and focused attention, the more beneficial the time spent in this partnership of mutual understanding. Even a few minutes extra time can provide a turning point in a student's belief in themselves as learners in the development of becoming better informed and confident people. 

Our classroom teachers, who are so devoted to maximizing possibilities for their students, and so unselfish in contributing their own time at home in reading and marking the work of students, also derive deeper satisfaction. Increased dialogue, clarifying questions, and Ah Hah moments help to deepen the bond between teacher and students. 

I most urgently ask that the class size baselines for smaller numbers of students in classrooms be maintained where they already exist, and established in places where we fall short. Funding for anti-poverty practices and reducing class size should not be competing priorities, indeed, reducing class size is an essential target in the fight to reduce poverty. 

Thank you for your attention and support. 


Alfred Kurland 

cc: State Senator John Liu

Alliance for Quality Education Campaign Coordinator Amshula Jayaram


Thursday, December 21, 2023

Lawsuit filed by UFT to block Mayor's budget cuts to education

Yesterday, a lawsuit was filed by the UFT, stating that the Mayor's proposed cuts to education violate two state laws -  the Contracts for Excellence law, which specifically says additional state funds awarded under the program must be "used to supplement, and not supplant funds allocated by the district." And yet these cuts have been imposed despite the DOE receiving an additional $500 million this year in C4E funds - the third phase in of more than $1.3 billion over the last three years, meant to be invested in improving  classroom conditions including lowering class sizes. Instead, class sizes have increased the last two years. Class Size Matters and AQE cited this issue in our letter to the State, pointing out this supplanting and urging them to require DOE to come up with a corrective action plan on class size. 

The other state law these cuts appear to violate is Education Law § 2576, which mandates that the city cannot cut spending on K12 education compared to the prior year, unless the city has suffered an overall decline in revenue, which has not occurred.  In  fact, the city anticipates an even higher surplus this year than last. 

The UFT press release is below, along with two charts shown at the press conference. The first is self-explanatory, but the second chart entitled "Education City Funds as Percentage of Overall City Budget Funds" is a bit confusing.  I was told by a UFT staffer that this chart shows how NYC spending on education has declined as a percentage of its overall spending on all city agencies.  Newsclips about the lawsuit at Chalkbeat, Daily News, NY Post, NBC News and elsewhere.

Teachers Sue to Halt Adams Budget Cuts to Education


The United Federation of Teachers, joined by individual teachers, today filed suit in Manhattan State Supreme Court to stop the Adams administration from cutting as much as $2 billion from city schools.


The lawsuit charges that as the state increased education funding to the city's public schools, New York City illegal reduced its contribution to education.

These cuts came, according to the lawsuit, "at a time when the City collected nearly $8 billion more in revenue last fiscal year than was anticipated, and when the City’s reserves of over $8 billion are at a new record high.”


In November the Adams administration announced cuts of nearly $550 million in the current fiscal year and plans for further reductions that could amount to $2 billion.  The cuts announced in November have already affected the universal pre-K initiative, current after-school and planned summer school programs, along with computer science instruction, special education, and other services.    


The legal filing says that the administration's claim that dealing with asylum seekers sill cost $11 billion over the next two years is "an unverified estimate."  That cost estimate has been challenged by lower projections from both the city's Independent Budget Office and the City Comptroller.


Describing the administration’s statements of a fiscal crisis resulting from the asylum seekers as “a false narrative,” the lawsuit says “the law does not permit school funding to be used as a political bargaining chip; and cutting essential services to the City’s schools is not a substitute for the mayoral leadership and advocacy on behalf of New Yorkers needed to obtain federal and state support."


UFT President Michael Mulgrew said, “The administration can’t go around touting the tourism recovery and the return of the city’s pre-pandemic jobs, and then create a fiscal crisis and cut education because of its own mismanagement of the asylum seeker problem.  Our schools and our families deserve better.”


The lawsuit cites two provisions of state law:  a requirement known as “maintenance of effort” that is part of Albany’s mayoral control legislation for New York City schools; and provisions of the state’s “Contract for Excellence” program.


According to the lawsuit, the maintenance of effort provision “prohibits the City from reducing spending in its schools from the level provided in the preceding year unless overall City revenues decline.”


The city’s contribution to the education budget for fiscal year 2023 was $14.5 billion, while the adopted budget for fiscal year 2024 was reduced to $14.1 billion. By January, further cuts under the Mayor’s plan will reduce the city’s contribution in FY2024 to $13.9 billion. City revenues – not counting state and federal aid -- grew $5 billion last year.


Under the state’s Contract for Excellence, local school districts must use new state funds to supplement local spending for education, but not to replace local efforts.  The lawsuit claims that the administration’s budget cuts will mean that state funds will end up supporting city education programs, in effect supplanting with state funds the programs that the city has refused to pay for.


According to the lawsuit, the cuts also undermine students’ rights to “a sound basic education” as provided for under New York State’s constitution. 


The lawsuit asks the court to find that the Mayor’s recent and planned budget cuts violate the New York State Constitution and state law and order the administration to restore education funding to the $14.5 billion amount that the city appropriated in fiscal year 2023.


A copy of the lawsuit is available here:



Monday, December 18, 2023