The UFT's five-point plan for restarting schools falls woefully short in the area of reducing class sizes. The Union is only calling for a "reduction in class sizes in 100 of the city's neediest schools."
With the Campaign for Fiscal Equity money finally starting to be allocated in the New York State budget, federal money coming, the City Council now proposing more funding, and the mayor claiming that school budgets will receive 100% Fair Student Funding, the NYC Department of Education has no excuse left not to lower class sizes across the board. Class size reductions are needed in every school, not just the neediest 100 as the UFT is calling for or even the 10,000 classes that parents are proposing.
From Class Size Matters, we have printed below the average class sizes the Department of Education was supposed to adhere to from the 2006 Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement that the DOE has never even attempted to get to and always had excuses for not even trying. They were supposed to reach these goals by 2011. Ten years later, it's about time to finally lower class sizes.
Here is what Class Size Matters and NYC Kids PAC said the other day on lowering class sizes:
The City Council in its preliminary budget response proposes that $250 million be spent on reducing class size next year, targeted first in struggling schools with particularly vulnerable students.
Class Size Matters and NYC Kids PAC strongly support this proposal, as the first step in a four- or five-year plan to lower class size citywide. The federal government is allocating about $7 billion over the next two years via the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) funds and the America Cares Rescue Act (ACRA) to help NYC schools reopen safely and with the support students will need to recover from the pandemic and more than a year of remote or blended learning.
In addition, our schools are also due to receive about $520 million in additional state Foundation Aid to NYC schools, increasing to about $1.3 billion over the next three years, to fulfill one of the goals of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. In that case, the state’s highest court concluded that NYC students were denied their constitutional right to a sound basic education, in part because their class sizes were too large.
$250 million could pay for the salaries of about 2,500 new teachers, which could reduce class size in as many as 10,000 classrooms – as adding a new class with a new teacher lowers class size for all the other students in a school in the same grade or subject. In addition, we support the Council’s proposal to spend $110 million to pay for at least one full-time school counselor and one full-time social worker in every public school.
Our schools and our kids have waited long enough. There is no austerity as we attempt to recover from the ongoing COVID pandemic. Each school is going to receive 100% Fair Student Funding. I have never seen schools not start the year without a cut. This upcoming school year looks like it will be different. The mayor stated this last week:
For the 2021-22 academic year, 100% of “Fair Student Funding” (FSF) will be available for all city public schools, according to the mayor.
“Fair student funding means more money directly into classrooms serving our students. We know what this funding means: higher graduation rates, lower dropout rates and more students getting into college,” Mayor de Blasio said Monday.
The money is there to lower class size now, hire needed guidance counselors and social workers, and yes to pay UFTers for working last year's spring break. The UFT needs to step up and its members have the responsibility to tell the leadership that the time is now to put money into the classroom and not administrator slush funds.