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Small class size FAQ

New York State lawmakers passed a bill on June 2 to cap the number of students per classroom in New York City public schools at 20 to 25, depending on the grade, by 2027. If signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul, the legislation would help bring New York City’s class sizes in line with the city suburbs and the rest of the state. 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 for the next five years, 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. 

federal funding chart - small class sizes

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.

What would be the new class size limits as mandated in this legislation? 

By 2027, 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.

Will class sizes automatically go down once the bill goes into effect or will it happen gradually?

There will be a five-year phase-in period in which the new limits would apply to 20% of all classes each year until the smaller class sizes are achieved citywide. 

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
High School 26.4 24.7 25

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. 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.