The so-called “class size” bill awaiting Governor Kathy Hochul’s signature is another example of politicians putting special interests ahead of student interests.
The United Federation of Teachers is trying to steal over a billion dollars from New York City parents and our children. And he pressures Hochul to be his accomplice.
The legislation, which was passed by the state Senate and Assembly, mandates class size reductions that the teachers’ union has spent years fighting for. It’s a boon for the union, which favors smaller class sizes because it means hiring more teachers. True parents have many other priorities.
I know this because I am a parent plaintiff in the New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights lawsuit brought against the state more than eight years ago, along with a coalition of public school parents and advocacy organizations such as the NYC Parents Union and some Community Education Councils. We, the plaintiff parents, demanded that New York properly fund our children’s education. And we won!
In October 2021, the governor signed a settlement agreement, with settlement amounts due to each school district in the state. New York City owes over a billion dollars. In his statement at the signing, Hochul said “this settlement closes a long chapter of inequity and demonstrates my administration’s commitment” to “fully fund public education.”
Over seven years of litigation and meetings, we parents discussed how the settlement money should be spent. At the most recent meeting, on October 20, 2021, the complaining parents and organizations laid out our priorities: special education services to compensate for services lost during the pandemic, school tutoring (a really tested school reminder), increased services mental health, after-school programs, extracurricular activities, laptops and technology for every student and more school safety officers. New York families are lucky that Mayor Eric Adams and Chancellor David Banks understand and support these priorities.
What we never discussed for nearly a decade of meetings was the use of settlement funds to reduce class sizes. This subject was never mentioned. Never.
Also note that every year the city’s Department of Education conducts a survey asking parents what is important to them. The #1 choice every year is more enrichment programs, including after-school programs, clubs, and teams.
Need more proof that parents don’t favor lower grades? Fifty-eight percent of New York City classrooms are already meeting class size goals — and these smaller class sizes are most often found in failing schools with staggering and growing enrollment losses . This, while the academically strong schools with the largest class sizes in the city have waiting lists that are never clear. Parents prefer 32 students in a class where children are learning to 15 students in a class where students do not reach the proficiency level.
And for families like mine, the failures of the system are more pronounced — 65% of black and Hispanic students can’t read, write, and do math at the grade level. New York City graduated illiterate and enumerator students. Parents are fleeing failing public schools and enrolling their children in charter, parochial, private and home schools.
Don’t take my word for it: The city’s Independent Budget Office released a report on Wednesday saying enrollment in Department of Education schools fell 8.3% in the 2020-21 and 2021 school years -22, while charter school enrollment rose 6.9%. Just last week, the city released data showing DOE schools will likely lose nearly 30,000 students by this fall.
Finally, research does not support the idea that simply reducing class size leads to better academic outcomes – teacher quality and program selection turn out to be much more important.
This union-backed class size legislation is a betrayal of all parents and an end to the wishes of NYSER Complainant Parents. There were no public hearings or consultations with parents, the real stakeholders, before Senator John Liu introduced the bill on Memorial Day weekend!
The bill, S9460, will strip the city’s students of the education and services that we parents have fought for and instead channel all the settlement money into hiring more teachers, which the union – not the parents – wants. The legislation ensures that no teacher will be ‘overrun’ despite the fact that school closures demanded by the teachers’ union have taken more than 100,000 pupils out of the school system.
As Mayor Adams recently noted, the system is “hemorrhaging students.” To stop student dropouts, we need to stop funding teacher union wish lists and start listening to real parents. The UFT is responsible for the under-education crisis and the resulting budget cuts that they lie to the public and parents about.
If Hochul signs this bill, she will be complicit in the theft of a billion dollars from New York students who have just lost two years of education and the normal school life they all deserve because our leaders place the interests individuals before student interests. Enough is enough.
Govt. Hochul, veto law S9460.
Mona Davids is a high school mom and the president of the NYC Parents Union.