UFT President Michael Mulgrew on the Signing of the Small Class Size Bill: A historic day for NYC schools

A union of professionals | United Federation of Teachers (uft.org)
Yesterday was a historic day for New York City public schools: Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law a landmark piece of legislation that will lower class sizes in every grade in New York City over the next six years. Parents and educators alike have been advocating for smaller classes for decades, and the passage of this legislation represents a groundbreaking change for our school system.

We are grateful to parent and community activists for the part they played in encouraging the state Legislature and the governor to pass this bill, which was spearheaded by State Senator John Liu.

The city has more state and federal education aid than ever before, and coming out of this pandemic, our students’ needs have never been greater. Thanks to this legislation, the class size gap between New York City public schools and schools in the rest of the state will finally close. The impact on our school system will be tremendous.

We want to be clear: This bill was never about reducing the number of children enrolled in popular programs and schools. On the contrary, the law will require the city to create more seats wherever they are needed so students receive the individualized attention they deserve. In no way will it lock children out of popular schools.

Here are some of the highlights of the new law:
What will the law do?  
Actual class sizes (as opposed to average) will be reduced to:
K-3: 20 students maximum
Grades 4-8: 23 students maximum
Grades 9-12: 25 students maximum
High school physical ed classes and performing groups: 40 students maximum

The current school year will be a planning year.

Beginning in September 2023 and over the following five years, 20% of classes citywide each year will need to be in compliance with the new size limits. Priority in the phase-in process will be given to schools with higher poverty rates.

During this planning year, a waiver process involving the UFT and the principals’ union will be worked out for schools that claim it would be a hardship to meet the new class size limits on schedule due to issues such as space, over-enrollment or license shortage areas. When a school is granted an exemption, the city must have a plan in place to overcome the hurdle.

Individual schools may exceed the new class size caps for elective and specialty classes if the school receives a waiver or if UFT members approve it in an SBO vote.
How will the implementation plan be created?  
The city and the Department of Education, in collaboration with the UFT and the principals’ union, must develop a class size reduction plan this year. The DOE, the UFT and the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators must all sign off on the final plan.This class-size reduction plan must specify the methods by which targets will be achieved, including the creation of more classrooms/buildings where space is an issue.Placement of a second teacher in the classroom is permitted, but only as a temporary measure.
How will the city’s progress be tracked?  
The city will be required to file an annual report, to be released publicly, with the state education commissioner on the status of implementation, including actual and projected class sizes in city schools.If the education commissioner finds implementation insufficient, the city must develop a corrective action plan in collaboration with the UFT and the principals’ union or risk forfeiting state school aid earmarked for class-size reduction.
How will the class-size reduction plan be enforced?   The state will release one-third of the state education aid it has allocated for class size reduction when it approves the city’s plan.The remainder of the state funds for class-size reduction will be disbursed in increments each time the city releases its annual progress report, provided the report demonstrates sufficient reduction in class sizes citywide or the state approves the city’s corrective action plan.
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The passage of this bill is only the first step in the journey ahead. While we know it will take hard work and vigilance to implement this new law, the law’s effects on our school system will be transformative. We look forward to engaging in this important work.
United Federation of Teachers
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