Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Over at NYC Educator, Arthur Goldstein, Chapter Leader at Francis Lewis High School, has written what is now a recurring post on the uselessness of the class size grievance process. Principals know that the exceptions on oversize classes that are written into the contract can easily become the rule.

The solution arbitrators are offering is for teachers to be relieved of their professional assignment in exchange for having oversize classes. This is absurd as how is a teacher doing less tutoring or some other professional activity going to help students in overcrowded classes? Arthur pointed this out in his piece.

Francis Lewis isn't the only high school where oversize classes are a perpetual issue. According to Unity Caucus retiree Gene Mann in The Organizer, "Benjamin N. Cardozo High School has more oversized classes than any school in the city-252.  Chapter Leader Dino Sferrazza has been struggling with this issue ever since he took over from the previous Chapter Leader (me) in 2004.  (I only had 209 oversized classes in 2003-2004.)"

Clearly, the grievance process is broken when it comes to class sizes. (It is broken in other ways too but that is a story for another day.)

My guess is that teachers in other schools have given up when it comes to oversize classes. Grieving is a waste of time in terms of fixing oversize classes as long as administration refuses to budge. Principals are backed up by the Office of Labor Relations whose philosophy on labor-management relations can be summed up in five words "My principals, right or wrong."

The Department of Education has made a mockery of the system. They are prepared to accept whatever bad publicity Arthur, groups like Class Size Matters or the UFT may throw at them.They don't care about oversize classes or they would compel principals to respect class size limits as they often did in the late 1990s and early 2000s in the pre Joel Klein-Carmen Farina days.

I cannot accept that Fair Student Funding budgeting that penalizes schools monetarily for having a mostly senior staff is the only problem here. How is it that Middle College High School, which has an average teacher salary almost as high as Cardozo, manages to maintain mostly reasonable class sizes?  I have been at Middle College since 2014 and have never taught a class here with over 28 students in it. There have been no contractually oversize classes in this school since I arrived.

The spending priorities at places like Cardozo and Lewis are not the classroom. Jamaica HS was at one point a fairly large school but we usually managed to be in compliance on class sizes. It can be done.

The current grievance process to remedy oversize classes is a mess and with the current union leadership it is not likely to be fixed. The UFT holding case conferences after the DOE refuses to lower class sizes when arbitrators order them to be reduced is not the answer.

Bold steps are needed such as filing PERB charges and/or court cases against the Departmet of Ed for continually going against the spirit and letter of the contract and the law too for that matter.

That's right, the law is being violated. To settle the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, the Legislature set a 25 student average limit for high school class sizes.

While charges we would file would be winding through the legal system, we could be threatening walkouts as the overcrowding is educationally unsound as well as being a safety issue for staff and students. Let the DOE try to throw the Taylor law prohibition against strikes at us when we stand up for safe teaching and learning conditions.

As for the class size law., sorry, I forgot laws only apply to little people like teachers and students at the DOE.

Having the law apply to the DOE is a pipe dream. It would be possible if we had a union that fought union battles and didn't just go through the motions.

Yes I'm dreaming again of having a real union that will fight the good fight with every tool available to uphold teacher rights and advocate for the kids too. I need to wake up. We have the Unity Caucus controlled UFT. They will sit and talk with the DOE and do little if anything to fix the overcrowding in schools but will claim lots of victories.


Anonymous said...

The UFT is a company union.

Anonymous said...

Oversize classes is something that pretty much only exists in NYC and not in the rest of the state. The reason? Parents here simply don't give a shit. Do you think parents in Rye would be cool with having overcrowded classes for their children? The DOE knows that parents are not complaining in large numbers and thus the problem is here to stay. Oh yeah, walkouts? Ummm, how many young, newbie ,teachers are willing to loose 2 days pay for every day that they walk out? Us veterans are all onboard for that for sure though. However, between the newbies and the UFT telling us not to do it, it would be a hard sell.

James Eterno said...

If we walked out over safety and class sizes, the parents and students would be totally with us.

Anonymous said...

No they would not. NYC schools are looked at by most parents as a giant babysitting service. We walk out, schools get closed, and mommy has to actually watch little Carlos instead of watching Jerry Springer re-runs all day.

Anonymous said...

Teachers might consider filing appeals with the Commissioner of Education regarding oversize classes.

If enough of them are filed, then there may be a chance of a win.

Unfortunately, the following appeal was dismissed by former Commissioner of Education David Steiner:

Here is some background information about Commissioner's appeals:

Here are the Commissioner's decisions from July 1991 to the present:

James Eterno said...

That works in our favor too if we as you say, are thought of as a babysitting service. Annoyed parents will want us back fast to take care of their kids. For the record I do not agree that we are thought of as babysitters by parents.

James Eterno said...

We can do that too. All avenues should be open. It has more of a chance of succeeding if filed collectively.

Anonymous said...

UFT at school again this week. Praising themselves, deflecting all the obvious negatives. They have the balls to ask for additional contributions! If they visit your school, make sure you bring up the fact that the UFT doesn't pay for our benefits, it just administrates them. A real jaw opener. This is probably the single best thing to point out the fat cat party. Ask your colleagues who pays for dental, vision, prescription....

Prehistoric pedagogue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.