Monday, June 30, 2014

Send the DOE and the Mayor a message today -- so that class sizes don't grow even larger next year

On Saturday, the NY Post reported on the rapid expansion of class sizes in the NYC public schools.  Not only have class size averages increased to their highest level in 15 in grades K-3, and the highest levels in grades 4-8 since 2002, but last year more than 330,000 students were sitting in classes of 30 or larger – substantially more than the year before.  

Sadly, there is nothing in your child’s school budget or nearly any NYC school budget that will likely reverse this trend.  Except for major increases in spending for preK, afterschool, and charter schools, school budgets are flat at best, and given increased teacher salaries and student enrollment, class sizes will likely rise to even greater levels next year.  

This is unless the mayor and the Chancellor make special efforts to reverse course – and revise their deeply flawed Contracts for Excellence plan which includes more than $500 million in spending, but includes no targeted or district-wide allocations for smaller classes, nor any realistic plan to reduce class size, though this is required by the C4E law, passed by the State Legislature in 2007:

In a city school district in a city having a population of one million or more inhabitants such contract shall also include a plan to reduce average class sizes, as defined by the commissioner, within five years for the following grade ranges: (A) pre-kindergarten-third grade; (B) fourth-eighth grade; and (C) high school.

Please email the DOE at and let them know if you think they should be reducing class size – the deadline for public comments is July 19 -- and copy the mayor at   Please also copy us at

Urge them to live up to their promises to NYC children and create a real class size reduction plan instead of the fundamentally defective proposal they have put forward.  If you like, you can copy us at   A sample message is below. 

When running for mayor, Bill de Blasio made repeated promises to reduce class size if elected, including that he would abide by the plan submitted by the city in 2007 that called for class sizes on average of no larger than 20 in grades K-3, 23 in 4th-8th grades and 25 in HS – and if necessary, to raise revenue to do so.   (See for example, p. 4 of this NYC KidsPAC candidate survey, and p.2  of this document de Blasio personally filled out and signed at a mayoral forum on June 14, 2013.)

Yet the C4E proposal the DOE has posted for next year would allot no specific dollars to reduce class size, and would instead allow schools to use these funds six different ways, including minimizing class size INCREASES, which no rational person can interpret as a commitment to lower class size.  

Their proposed plan is a continuation of the dismal Bloomberg era, in which the DOE has used these dollars for the last seven years as a slush fund to finance its own priorities – and then gave whatever was left over for schools to fill in whatever budget gaps they had.  We have seen the deplorable consequences: class sizes growing out of control. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. 

To make things worse, the DOE ended the early grade class size funding program in 2010 which they had promised to keep, and stopped capping class sizes at 28 in the early grades in 2011.  None of these policy choices have been reversed by the new administration. 

The city’s posted plan appears to subvert the law in at least two ways:  A) It provides no evidence that it will lead to smaller classes.  2) It admits that the funds are being used to supplant (or substitute) for its own budget cuts to schools. 

Please submit your comments to today – the deadline is July 19 – by emailing them at and copy the Mayor at
A sample message is below – but if you can, please personalize this message by including details of your child’s situation and explain why this issue is important to you.


Class sizes are now larger than any time in 15 years in the early grades, and this year, more than 330,000 children were squeezed into classes of 30 or more.  If enacted, your Contracts for Excellence proposal would allow this unacceptable situation to worsen.  It contains no specific funding to reduce class size, even though a plan to lower class size is a required part of the law, and instead allows schools to use these funds to increase class size.

If this proposal is not substantially revised, under your watch, class sizes will be even larger next year.  I urge you to revise this proposal by taking the following steps, at minimum: 

1- Invest a substantial share of the C4E funds as part of a targeted initiative towards lowering class size and make sure that these dollars are spent accordingly; 2- Restore the early grade class size reduction program that the DOE eliminated in 2010; and 3- Return to capping class sizes in grades 1-3 at 28.    

NYC children deserve a quality education and this cannot happen without providing them with smaller classes.

Yours,  name and address.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Comment on the Blue Book changes

The just announced change to the "Blue Book",  the annual school capacity and utilization report, to attribute the enrollment in trailers or TCUs to the main building is a good one – and was recommended in our report, Space Crunch.  

But we still need to know how many students are sitting in trailers – which DOE fails to report for thousands of high school students, and an unknown number of elementary, middle and District 75 students as well – especially if they plan to replace those seats.

Other reforms that will be necessary in order to achieve a more accurate picture of school overcrowding include:

·         Lowering the target class sizes in grades 4-12, which are far higher than they should be at 28-30, and even higher than current average class sizes in these grades, and thus would tend to push class sizes even larger than they are now;
·         Providing a more reasonable number of cluster and specialty rooms for each school, in order to provide a well-rounded education;
·         Ensuring that all students needing intervention or special education services can receive them in dedicated, appropriate spaces rather than in hallways or closets;
·         Improving the formula so that when a school is forced to convert a library, science room, cafeteria, or auditorium to a classroom because of overcrowding, this does not increase the school’s listed capacity and register it as less overcrowded than before;
·         Adjusting the formula so that a building with many co-located schools is allotted  more room, in order to adjust to the difficulty of scheduling different classes and organizations in the shared spaces.

Only through implementing these reforms can we begin to have a more accurate picture of school utilization and assess how overcrowded our schools have truly become.

-- Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Please attend class size hearings starting next week and make your voices heard!

As the result of a lawsuit, DOE is holding borough hearings starting next week on their use of $531 million in annual Contract for Excellence state funds. A flyer you can post in your school is here.  Places and times are below.

These funds were approved with the requirement that NYC submit a plan to lower class size, as well as hold borough hearings to gain feedback from parents and community members.  Yet for the last four years, the DOE had refused to hold these hearings until they were sued in court.

Even worse, class sizes have increased each year since this law was passed-- and are now the largest in 15 years in grades K-3 and the largest in grades 4-8 since 2002.

Class size reduction is the #1 priority of parents citywide, according to the DOE’s own surveys, and the constitutional right of NYC children, according to the state’s highest court.

Please come and make your voices heard!  Let me know if you would like some talking points in advance, and/or class size data specific to your district or borough.

Manhattan: Tuesday, June 17 – 7:00-8:00 p.m. – Stuyvesant HS (345 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10282)

Brooklyn: Wednesday, June 18 – 6:30-7:30 p.m. – Edward R Murrow HS (1600 Avenue L, Brooklyn, NY 11230)

Bronx: Thursday, June 19 – 6:30-7:30 p.m. – M.S. 223 (360 E.145th Street, Bronx, NY 10454)

Staten Island: Monday, June 23 – 6:30-7:30 p.m. – Petridis Complex (715 Ocean Terrace, Staten Island, NY 10301)

Queens: Wednesday, June 25 – 6:30-7:30 p.m. – Long Island City HS (14-30 Broadway, Queens, NY 11106)
Last month we sent a letter co-signed by 15 Community Education Council presidents and other parent leaders, urging the Chancellor to allocate specific funds for class size reduction.  We also posted an online petition that now has more than 400 signatures.

Nevertheless, the DOE has NOT allocated any funds specifically for class size reduction, and never mentions any obligation to reduce class size in its proposed C4E "non-plan” here.

Despite Mayor de Blasio’s campaign promise to comply with the city’s 2007 plan to lower class size to no more than 20 students per class in grades K-3, 23 in grades 4-8 and 25 in HS,  the DOE’s new proposed plan merely leaves it up to principals to decide how they want to spend these funds among five choices, and allows them to use the funds to minimize INCREASES in class size, which by no definition means lowering class size.

Public comments are due July 19– and can either be submitted at the hearings or by emailing

Please let us know at if you can attend these important hearings.  I know it is a busy time of year, but I urge you to do it for your children and all NYC public school kids. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Crisis in school overcrowding; likely to be even worse in future if proposed capital plan adopted

For immediate release:                                     
June 5, 2014 

For more information: 
Leonie Haimson,; 917-435-9329

Nearly half a million NYC students are crammed into severely overcrowded buildings; if capital plan adopted, crisis will be even worse five years from now

Today, Class Size Matters released a comprehensive report on school overcrowding.  Among the findings:  More schools are now overcrowded than in 2006, with 488,438 students enrolled in school buildings at or above 100% target utilization, according to NYC Department of Education figures for 2012-13.  

The situation is especially dire in elementary schools, where according to the DOE Blue Book, 57 percent of students are in over-utilized buildings.  The average utilization rate of elementary schools is 97.4 percent and the median rate is an astonishing 102 percent.   The report is posted here:
 At the same time the administration and most experts agree that the Blue Book formula actually underestimates the actual level of overcrowding in our schools, and a taskforce has been appointed to revamp it.
While there are only at most 38,654 seats in the capital plan, the real need is at least 100,000 seats, since enrollment is projected to increase by 60-70,000 students over the next ten years, and 30,000 seats are needed just to alleviate overcrowding in districts that currently average over 100 percent utilization. The estimate of 100,000 seats does not count the need to expand preK, reduce class size, address neighborhood overcrowding, or eliminate trailers.
Moreover, though the DOE officials have reported that “only” 7158 students are currently housed in trailers, the real figure is likely more than 10,000 students, since they do not count thousands of students housed in TCUs at 47 elementary, middle, and high schools, and District 75 programs.
Finally, even as the proposed capital plan allocates nearly half a billion dollars to remove the trailers, it has not allocated a single cent to replace their seats.  For example, there are 70 TCUs in four districts where not a single new school seat is supposed to be built.
According to attorney Michael A. Rebell, co-counsel in CFE vs. State of New York, “This report provides important data that indicates substantial and continuing violations of children's constitutional rights as articulated by the state's highest court in the CFE litigation."

“This reports reveals just how shockingly overcrowded our public schools are,” said City Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm. “Nearly half (48%) of students citywide are in school buildings at or above 100% utilization, according to the latest DOE data from the 2012-13 school year. While the Department of Education (DOE) has allocated over $500 million to remove trailers, they have not been clear about where they will place these students when the trailers are removed. I call on the DOE to craft a real plan to build or lease more schools to address the issue of overcrowding and to reduce class size.”

Said Wendy Lecker, CFE Project Attorney with the Education Law Center, “Overcrowding plays a major role in depriving New York City public school children of basic educational resources, such as reasonable class size, services for at-risk children, libraries, science labs, art, music and more.   This informative report represents an important step in addressing the critical need for adequate space in New York City public schools."

“There is a huge space squeeze in our schools.  Hundreds of thousands of children are sitting in overcrowded classrooms, without art rooms, science rooms or dedicated spaces for their mandated services.  Thousands more students are sitting in trailers or on waiting lists for Kindergarten.  Yet if this plan is adopted, students are likely to be crammed into even more overcrowded schools and classrooms five years from now – despite the promises of the Mayor to reduce class size and improve the quality of education.  NYC children deserve a real plan to improve these shameful conditions, and for this to happen, DOE must stop fudging the numbers,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.