The UFT began exercising the class-size reduction provisions in the new DOE-UFT contract in February at schools on a semi-annualized schedule. It was a trial run of a new process that should give teachers across the city quicker relief next fall.
“Parents and teachers agree that class size is a critical issue for students’ learning, and the limits in the UFT contract are the only official restraints on class sizes in the city’s public schools,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “But we needed a faster process to get our class-size complaints resolved.”
UFT district representatives and district superintendents are now tasked with trying to resolve oversize classes in schools in their districts from the 11th to the 19th day of the new semester. On the 21st day, all remaining oversize classes go to the Class Size Labor-Management Committee for review. If that committee can’t come up with a remedy, the issue goes to arbitration. The arbitrator’s remedy must be implemented within 10 days of the arbitration hearing.
The new contract also creates an expedited process of contract arbitration to resolve oversize classes in schools with classes that have had oversize classes in four of the past six years.
On Feb. 14, which was Day 10 of the second semester, three semi-annualized city schools with a history of oversize classes again reported class sizes over the contractual limit of 34 in high school academic subjects: Benjamin N. Cardozo HS in Queens, Francis Lewis HS in Queens and the Secondary School for Journalism in Brooklyn.
Under the new contract rules, the citywide Class Size Labor-Management Committee must meet and come up with a school-specific resolution by Day 10 for these schools. If the committee cannot, the case is scheduled for expedited arbitration as soon as 10 days later — and no later than the 34th school day of the term. The arbitrator can issue a binding remedy within five school days that the DOE must implement in five schools days.
By Day 18 — March 1, the day the New York Teacher went to press — a school-specific remedy had been agreed upon for the Secondary School for Journalism and the DOE was working to equalize registers at the two other schools.
Under the previous contract rules governing oversize classes, the arbitration process could take months and often resulted in DOE “action plans” that provided little or no relief for classrooms bursting at the seams. In addition, some schools were permitted to apply for repeated exemptions from the class-size requirements.