Press releases

One million city students in schools hit by budget cuts

Younger children most affected, with 74 percent of elementary schools reporting higher class sizes, more than half of K-5 schools reducing tutoring; hundreds of schools report shortages of textbooks, supplies

A UFT survey shows that budget cuts have reached deep into the classrooms of city public schools, with an estimated three-quarters of elementary schools forced to raise class sizes, and more than half of elementary schools having to cut back on tutoring and other academic supports.

Large numbers of middle and high schools have also raised class sizes, even as they are reducing special education services and support for English language learners. More than sixty percent of high schools have reduced or eliminated after-school programs, nearly half have cut back or eliminated tutoring, and 54 percent have sacrificed extracurricular activities.

Overall, more than one-third of schools have fewer textbooks, and half to two-thirds have had to reduce other instructional supplies.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said: “Budget cuts have a human cost, and this is what austerity looks like. Based on our survey, an estimated ninety-one percent of our school population — nearly one million children — are in schools where budget cuts are having a direct and immediate effect on their education. From overcrowded classes to not enough textbooks, from the loss of tutoring and other academic supports to the elimination of afterschool programs, our children are suffering. We’ve got to stop school budget cuts and start re-investing in our schools and our kids.”

At a news conference at PS 1 at 8 Henry St. in Manhattan, PS 1 Chapter Leader Christine Wong said: “Because the great majority of our students do not speak English at home, our school prided itself on keeping class sizes as low as possible. But as budget cuts have continued in recent years, we have gone from as low as 18 students to 28, and even 32, including in the lowest grades. We simply can’t give these children, particularly the English language learners, the attention they need with class sizes this large. These continuing cutbacks are devastating our school community.”

The UFT survey was conducted by email this fall. Chapter leaders from 875 of the system’s roughly 1,700 schools have already responded.

Among their comments:

From Mosaic Prep Academy, East Harlem: “We’re used to 18-21 students in a class. Now we’re at 31 and 34, with 28 in a kindergarten class.”

From IS 223, Queens: “We don’t have enough textbooks for each child to have one.”

From PS 222, Brooklyn: “Higher class sizes — scores have gone down in ELA and math…”

From PS 28, Queens: “For the past three years we have seen an increase in class sizes because of not enough space and because we can’t hire any more teachers. The majority of the students are English Language Learners and need a lot more small group learning …”

From PS 185, Manhattan: “Parents are withdrawing their children from our school and placing them in charter schools because they have more resources for afterschool programming, tutoring, etc.”

From PS 1, Staten Island: “Much larger class size does not permit teachers to reach out to each child… test scores have dropped over the past three years.”

From Leon Goldstein HS, Brooklyn: “The school is functioning but we are the edge… we have lost AP classes, electives, most afterschool activities… students do not have the opportunity to take as many courses during their junior and senior year, harming their chances of getting accepted into a good college..”

From PS 527, Bronx: “Class sizes are enormous… students do not have adequate supplies — measuring tapes, rulers, calculators, computers, books for independent reading… teachers have to pay for expensive supplies out of their own pockets…”

Cuts to classrooms
My school has % Elementary Schools Affected (N=458) % Middle School Affected (N=140) % High School Affected (N=186)
Increased class sizes 74% 61% 59%
Reduced special education supports or services 19% 26% 28%
Reduced ELL supports or services 21% 26% 19%
Reduced Academic Intervention Services 56% 30% 17%
Used mass prep periods and not called substitutes 42% 30% 30%
Lost its art and music classes 20% 23% 28%
Lost other things (language, gym, AP classes, etc.) 21% 29% 36%

Close to 60% of schools have less personnel as a result of budget cuts. Forty-four percent of these schools said that they had a total of 1,395 fewer teachers. Of the schools with fewer teachers, 25% said it was due to excessing, 20% attributed it to retirement, 14% said it was due to resignations and 4% said it was due to the termination of a non-tenured teachers.

Almost 40% of the schools reported that they have lost other personnel. A quarter of the schools have lost lunchroom workers and crossing guards, around 10% of these schools have lost librarians and secretaries, and about 6% of schools have lost social workers, psychologists and guidance counselors.

Cuts in personnel
My school has % Elementary Schools Affected (N=458) % Middle Schools Affected (N=140) % High Schools Affected (N=186)
Fewer teachers this year 45% 42% 48%
My school population has also stayed the same or increased 27% 22% 24%
Lost other important school personnel 38% 41% 53%
My school population has also stayed the same or increased 24% 26% 32%


Cuts to safety
My school has % Elementary Schools Affected (N=458) % Middle School Affected (N=140) % High School Affected (N=186)
Safety officers 7% 9% 12%
Save rooms 22% 30% 20%
Dean positions 8% 27% 28%
Suspension centers 2% 5% 8%


Cuts to classroom supplies
My school has % Elementary Schools Affected (N=458) % Middle School Affected (N=140) % High School Affected (N=186)
Textbooks 36% 43% 41%
Other instructional supplies 64% 60% 52%


Cuts to programs
My school has % Elementary Schools Affected (N=458) % Middle School Affected (N=140) % High School Affected (N=186)
After school programs 60% 63% 60%
Weekend programs 40% 46% 38%
Tutoring programs 24% 43% 46%
Professional development 43% 53% 34%
Extracurricular activities 42% 59% 51%
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