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Mulgrew: Class-size law ‘not a negotiation’

New York Teacher
Teachers protesting class sizes
Jonathan Fickies

Educators and parents voiced their support for smaller class sizes during a UFT press conference on reduced class size near City Hall on Dec. 9, 2021.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew reminded the Delegate Assembly on May 17 that the new state class-size law will begin to be implemented in September, and there is no excuse for the Department of Education to fail to fulfill the mandate.

“This is not a negotiation,” Mulgrew said. “This is the law of the state, so you must comply.”

The measure passed by the state Legislature last year requires that maximum class sizes in city schools be reduced to 20 for kindergarten, 20 for grades 1–3, 23 for grades 4–8, and 25 for high school by 2028.

Twenty percent of all classes citywide must come into compliance with the new limits in September, followed by 20% more in each subsequent year of the five-year phase-in period. Schools with higher poverty rates have priority.

The landmark legislation, signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul last September, “is a funded mandate,” Mulgrew said.

He called out the city for taking advantage of the additional state aid flowing to New York City public schools to reduce its own education spending for the past two years.

“Last year, the city took the money provided by the state and supplanted it,” Mulgrew said. “It has to stop.”

He said the UFT is lobbying Albany lawmakers to pass legislation barring localities from supplanting state and federal education funding.

Mulgrew also said he feared that the city administration would “use the migrant crisis to torpedo the city’s budget.”

The federal government should be providing more funds for the city to deal with the influx of thousands of asylum seekers, Mulgrew said, but “New York City still has a lot of money in its reserves.”

The UFT president praised members for all they have done to help the migrant children in their schools.

“I’ve seen teachers running food and clothing drives to help these students and their families,” Mulgrew said. “The one group of people supporting the asylum seekers has been the people in the schools. I’m so proud of the work you’ve all done.”