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More than 300,000 NYC students in high-need schools stuck in oversized classes

Teachers’ union disputes city's claims that high-need schools already meet class limits
Press Releases

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, joined by parents, educators, advocates, and elected officials, announced today that a union survey has shown that — despite the claims by critics — more than 300,000 students in the city’s high-need schools are in oversized classes. Watch the announcement

Mr. Mulgrew said, "In nearly 700 ‘Title 1’ schools — a measure that the federal government uses to identify high levels of poverty — 50 percent or more of the classes are larger than allowed by the new state law."

See the UFT's ad calling for enforcement of the class size law 

In 665 Title 1 schools, at least 50 percent of classes exceed the state law limits this school year. In these Title 1 schools, some 322,111 students are currently in classes larger than set in the state law. In 40 of these schools, every single class is over the class size limit established by the new state law. Overall, 97% of New York City's 1,267 Title 1 schools have at least one oversized classroom.

See a list of the most overcrowded Title 1 schools in New York City

The Title 1 schools with overcrowded classrooms are located in every borough, in neighborhoods ranging from the South Bronx to Staten Island, from Manhattan’s Washington Heights to Forest Park in Queens, and East New York in Brooklyn.

Mr. Mulgrew added, "Claiming these schools have no overcrowding problem is just one example of how the city is working to undermine the new class size mandate. Rather than use delaying tactics or manufacturing a fiscal crisis when it has record levels of financial reserves, the city’s Department of Education needs to come up with a coherent plan to address the long-term inequity of crowded classrooms."

As Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, pointed out, "Average class sizes increased sharply this year at all grade levels, and for elementary and middle schools, this was the second year in a row. It’s been 536 days since the class size law was approved by the legislature, and 438 days since it was signed into law by Gov. Hochul, who also gave the DOE an extra year to comply. Given the current trend in class size, and the city’s proposed cuts to school funding and the capital plan, DOE will not be able to meet the caps in the law unless parents, educators, advocates, and city and state lawmakers work together to compel the Mayor and the Chancellor to act, and to act now."

In 2022 the Legislature passed, and Governor Hochul signed a bill to lower New York City class sizes — for decades the largest in the state — to 20 in the early grades, 23 in grades fourth through eighth, and 25 in high school.

The law specifically states that New York City's "class size reduction plan shall prioritize schools serving populations with higher poverty levels."

"Far more than 300,000 students in high-need NYC schools are trapped in overcrowded classrooms, directly undermining their learning opportunities," said Zakiyah Shaakir-Ansari, Interim Co-Executive Director for the Alliance for Quality Education. "This overcrowding disproportionately impacts Black, Brown, low-income, and immigrant students, denying them equitable access to a quality education. NYC must follow the law even if a small group of people don’t like it."

The Legislature also included additional funding of $1.6 billion to help meet that goal, one that had been established more than three decades ago as part of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit that eventually changed how the state-funded local schools.

Mr. Mulgrew added, "While the usual purveyors of budget doom-and-gloom will claim it can’t be done, in fact, there are always budget challenges and out-year city budget gaps have always turned into annual operating surpluses."

"New York City now has the opportunity to reverse a historic injustice and to provide the benefit of smaller classes to hundreds of thousands of public school children, an initiative that will pay educational and economic dividends for decades to come," Mulgrew said.