Small class size FAQ
Gov. Kathy Hochul has 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.
The FAQ below addresses some common questions and concerns about the bill and the impact it would have on our schools.
Is it true that the city doesn’t have the budget to fund smaller class sizes?
No. This would be a funded mandate. The city has $4.6 billion in unspent federal COVID education funds and $1.3 billion in additional recurring state foundation aid. The class size legislation's estimated cost is $200 million per year, which comes out to $1 billion at the end of the five-year phase-in period. This is less than 1% of the city’s budget and can be funded through the additional federal money and recurring state aid.
What would be the new class size limits as mandated in this legislation?
By September 2028, the city would have to cap classes at 20 students in kindergarten through third grade, 23 students for grades 4-8, and 25 students for high school classes.
High school physical education and performing groups will be capped at 40 students. For specialty and elective classes, schools may negotiate to exceed these caps if it receives a waiver or through the SBO process.
When will this legislation take effect? Will class sizes automatically go down or will it happen gradually?
Planning will begin immediately in September of 2022 and continue throughout this school year. There will be a five-year phase-in period beginning in the 2023-24 school year and concluding in September 2028 in which the new limits would apply to 20% of all classes each year until the smaller class sizes are achieved citywide.
What cuts will schools face as a result of this legislation?
Cuts are not necessary because the class size bill would be a funded mandate. The city has $4.6 billion in unspent federal COVID education funds and $1.3 billion in additional recurring state foundation aid for city schools. The city will not go bankrupt; the legislation clearly states that exemptions are permitted on the basis of severe economic distress.
Would school buildings be able to accommodate the additional space needed to make class sizes smaller?
Using the Department of Education’s most recent space survey, nearly 90 percent of the system’s current buildings could easily adopt the new class size guidelines. The current class sizes from the 2021-22 school year are already very close to the class sizes proposed in the bill. Other space can be found by re-purposing administrative or non-traditional classroom areas for instruction, while the new classrooms made necessary by the legislation – phased in over five years – are less than the DOE has already planned for those years.
|New York City Average Class Sizes||Class Size Legislation|
|Grade Level||Pre-Pandemic (2019 - 2020)||2021-2022 School Year|
|K - 3||23.8||21.2||20|
|4 - 8||26.5||23.8||23|
Is there really such a discrepancy between class sizes in New York City public schools and classrooms across the state?
Yes. According to New York State data, 663 of New York’s 675 public school districts have lower class sizes than the city – that’s 98.2%.
What are the benefits of smaller class sizes for students?
Fewer students in a class means more one-on-one attention for every student in a classroom, and fewer students means the teacher can meet the needs of children with a range of capabilities — from the child who needs extra guidance to the child who thrives at an accelerated pace. Studies have shown a correlation between smaller class sizes and increased rates of student academic performance.
Won’t the cost for the additional teachers needed to create more classes be prohibitive?
The total cost for additional teachers needed – $1 billion – is less than one percent of the city’s current $100 billion annual budget.
Could smaller class sizes help retain teachers in city schools?
New York City public schools currently suffer from high teacher attrition at a time when there is also a nationwide teacher shortage. Roughly 5,000 city classroom teachers resign or retire every year and cite teaching conditions as a prime reason, which includes oversized classes. Smaller class sizes could help combat teacher turnover in the city.
Will the small class size legislation target schools in high-need neighborhoods?
Yes. During the five year phase-in process, priority will be given to schools with higher poverty rates so they will have smaller class sizes sooner.
What would happen in the cases of schools that have selective enrollment or are already over-enrolled?
The bill provides exemptions for popular, special or over-enrolled schools. It provides temporary exemptions for certain over-subscribed buildings and a process for finding more space for these tough cases. 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.
In no case will popular, special, or over-enrolled schools or programs be able to push out or turn away students based on the new space calculations, though such schools will be required to make plans to expand their capacity over time.
What if the city doesn’t take sufficient action to create smaller class sizes?
The bill includes an enforcement process tied to funding. The city must submit annual reports demonstrating how they are meeting the new class size benchmarks. Additional funds will be released to the city if the report demonstrates sufficient reductions in class sizes. If the city’s implementation is not keeping up with the requirements of the bill, a corrective action plan will be required.
What information about this process will be released to the public?
In addition to the checks and balances provided in the bill, requiring collaboration between the UFT, the DOE and other stakeholders, the process around creating and implementing a plan to reduce class sizes is also required to be a very public one.
Starting on November 15, 2024, annual reports will be made to the Commissioner of the State Education Department. These reports will be publicly released and posted on the DOE's website and will detail the actual and projected class sizes across the city. This report will identify the schools receiving funding for class size reduction and additional information including:
how much funding received by each school and the year received
how funding is being used to reduce class sizes at each school
former class sizes and the number of new classes
number of new teachers in each school both before and after funding was received
student to teacher ratios before and after receiving funding
actual and projected student enrollment for the upcoming school year by grade level
current and projected class sizes for the upcoming school year by grade level
the annual capital plan for school construction and leasing to show how many classrooms are being added per year in which schools in order to achieve targets
how school capacity and utilization formula is aligned to the class size targets in the city’s plan, and
identifying schools that have made insufficient progress in attaining class size reduction targets with a detailed description of the actions that will be taken to reduce these class sizes.
Other plan documentation, such as financial statements and corrective action plans, will also be made publicly available.
Will there be any public hearings with the opportunity to give comments and input?
Yes, the bill calls for a public hearing process to take place no later than 30 days after the state budget is enacted each year (the state fiscal year begins April 1) to be completed in a month's time. Notice of these hearings must be posted on the DOE’s website and emailed to school administrators, parent and teacher organizations, and elected officials at least 15 days before the first hearing.
The proposed class size plan must be then submitted to the state within two weeks of completion of this hearing process and will be posted on the DOE’s website within 24 hours of its submission. A summary of the public comments will be included along with an explanation why those comments were or were not incorporated into the plan.