The United Federation of Teachers began an expedited process of contract arbitration to force the city Department of Education to lower class sizes in five schools that have a history of forcing children to try to learn in overcrowded classrooms.
Teachers have reported class sizes of up to 38 students in Leon M. Goldstein HS for the Sciences, Benjamin N. Cardozo HS, Francis Lewis HS, the Academy of American Studies and the Secondary School for Journalism. All these schools have reported major overcrowding in classes for at least four of the last six years.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said, "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. But the schools on this list have a history of ignoring these limits, and under our new contract we can now begin a faster process of getting all class size complaints resolved."
Under old contract rules covering oversize classes, the arbitration process could be lengthy and often resulted in DOE “action plans” that had little or no effect. In addition, some schools were permitted to apply for repeated exemptions from the class size requirements, which range from 18 students in pre-K to 34 in high school academic subjects.
Under the new DOE-UFT contract, schools that have been deemed to have chronically oversized classrooms can be brought immediately to arbitration and the arbitrator’s decision must be implemented by the DOE within five days. Arbitration awards can be enforced by the courts.
In addition to the expedited process for chronically overcrowded classes, the UFT will be working with district superintendents and the citywide Class Size Labor Management Committee to resolve oversize class complaints in other schools. Any schools where class size issues are not resolved by this process will be eligible for arbitrators' hearings, with the additional requirement that arbitrators' remedies must be implemented within five school days.
Currently, the DOE-UFT contract holds class size requirements to the following:
- Pre-Kindergarten: 18 students with a teacher and a paraprofessional
- Kindergarten: 25 students
- Grades 1-6 in elementary schools: 32 students by contract
- Junior High School/Middle School (all grades 4 – 8 or 5 – 9, if are located in a middle school, then middle school class size applies): 33 students in non-Title I schools; 30 in Title I schools
- High School: 34 students; 50 in Physical Education