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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? 

The latest estimate from the Independent Budget Office (IBO) says that lowering class size will cost $214 million in 2026 and $427 million in 2027, a small portion of the DOE's $32 billion budget. 

There are provisions in the bill to ensure adequate funding to reduce class sizes. The FY25 budget agreement includes a 4.9% increase in education funding. The amount of city dollars in the education budget cannot decrease from year to year, unless the total amount of city funds in the overall budget decreases by a greater amount. If the city is found to have allocated less funding for education than it did the year before, the Council must appropriate any missing funds.

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?

There will be a five-year phase-in period beginning in the 2023-24 school year and concluding in 2027-28 in which the new limits would apply to 20% of all classes each year until the smaller class sizes are achieved citywide. 

Can schools or classes qualify for any exemptions to the law? 

Exemptions for the class size law may be granted on the basis of these criteria: 

  • Space - Any exemptions based on space must demonstrate that the budget is aligned with resolving the exemption in the future. 
  • Over-enrollment 
  • License area shortages - For example, if a high school algebra class is over the limit and there is no other algebra teacher, that class can remain over the class size limit until another algebra teacher is hired. 
  • Severe economic distress 

What cuts will schools face as a result of this legislation? 

Each school must get the funding they need to reduce class sizes per the new legislation. The law provides for individual schools to receive additional and sufficient funds to meet class size requirements. The class size legislation also permits exemptions on the basis of severe economic distress for classes where full implementation of the law would be a hardship.

Would school buildings be able to accommodate the additional space needed to make class sizes smaller? 

Current class sizes 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.

New York City Average Class SizesCurrent Contractual LimitsClass Size Legislation
Grade LevelPre-Pandemic 
(2019 - 2020)
2021-2022 School Year
K - 323.821.2K: 2520
1-3: 32
4 - 826.523.84-5: 3223
6-8: 33
High School26.424.73425

Is there really such a discrepancy between class sizes in New York City public schools and classrooms across the state? 

Yes. According to the latest available 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, according to the UFT's analysis – 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 classes in over-enrolled schools. It provides temporary exemptions for certain oversubscribed buildings and a process for finding more space for these tough cases. This law forces the city to prioritize building and expanding spaces to help schools comply. 

In no case will popular, special, or over-enrolled schools or programs be forced to push out or turn away students based on the new space calculations.

Isn’t there a shortage of space to meet the new class size requirements? 

Over half of the schools in our city currently have the space to lower class size. A UFT survey found 856 Title 1 schools — enrolling more than 300,000 students, at all school levels and in every borough — will have the space needed to lower class sizes to meet the law's class size requirements. These Title 1 schools have space for over 207,000 additional seats, yet will need only 31,318 seats to lower class sizes and meet the law’s benchmarks. 

What if the city doesn’t take sufficient action or provide adequate funding to create smaller class sizes? 

State money intended for class size must be used for this purpose. The city can no longer misuse state aid. If the city does not provide adequate funding for class size reduction, it has 60 days to come into compliance. If the city remains non-compliant after 60 days, the amount by which they are non-compliant will be withheld from the city’s foundation aid allotment until the budget is fixed. 

The bill also includes an enforcement process. 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. Hearings were conducted virtually for each borough in May 2024.   

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.