September will mark the beginning of the five-year phase-in of the landmark state law to reduce class sizes in New York City public schools. The DOE is having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that it doesn’t get to decide if class sizes are reduced. It’s now the law.
In fact, the city’s capital spending plan and co-location decisions will make it harder for the city and the DOE to comply with the law.
The 2022 law 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. With 20% of classrooms required to come into compliance each year, the DOE may be able to get by for the first two years, but after that, it will take considerable foresight and planning.
Yet instead of putting together a five-year plan to build the new space necessary to accommodate smaller classes in every school, Mayor Eric Adams wants to slash capital spending for schools by $2.3 billion over that period. If the mayor has his way, about 21,000 fewer seats would be created.
The city’s decision to proceed with more co-locations just months after the class-size law was signed is equally shortsighted. In March, the UFT, along with parents from the affected public schools, filed a lawsuit charging that the DOE violated state education law and its own regulations when it voted in late 2022 to give the green light to Success Academy co-locations in Far Rockaway, Queens, and in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, without conducting an in-depth analysis of the impact. The DOE did not take into account that the four affected public schools would need the available space in their buildings to create the smaller class sizes now mandated by state law.
The law is the law. The DOE doesn’t get to decide which laws it obeys and which it can ignore. There is no more time to waste.