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Know Your Rights

Class size and instructional materials

New York Teacher

As we enter a new school year, teachers should be aware of their rights to reasonable class sizes and instructional materials.

Class size

Keeping class sizes within proper limits is not just a professional and contractual right to enable you to do your job better, it’s also beneficial for students, who will receive more individual attention.

Contractual class-size limits vary with the school level, type of class and other factors [see box]. Within the first few days of each school year or term, check with your chapter leader to find out if your classes exceed the appropriate class-size maximums.

Class-size limits

  • Prekindergarten: 18 students with a teacher and a paraprofessional
  • Kindergarten: 25 students
  • Grades 1–6 in elementary schools: 32 students
  • Junior high school/middle school (all grades 4–8 or 5–9, if 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/gym.

A new expedited procedure for class- and group-size grievances was negotiated as part of the 2018 contract. The goal is for school administration and UFT representatives to resolve the matter locally and quickly, without the need to resort to arbitration.

During the first 10 school days of September (and the first 10 days of each term in schools with a semiannual schedule), the chapter leader and the principal will attempt to informally resolve all class-size and group-size issues. The principal will consult with the superintendent and the chapter leader will consult with the UFT district representative. If the matter is unresolved on the 19th day of the school term, the UFT district rep and the superintendent will meet to resolve the issue for any class that exceeds the maximum limits set forth in Article 7M (1) and (2) of the DOE-UFT contract.

Between the 15th and the 20th school day of each term, the superintendent and the UFT district rep will indicate in an electronic form whether each school in their district/superintendency has any oversized classes and, if so, what the cause is. If a school has at least one oversized class, that school’s oversized classes will be reviewed by the Class Size Labor Management Committee.

Beginning on the 21st day, the committee will deal with any remaining oversized classes and will meet until all schools with an oversized class have had the issue addressed. Schools that have had oversized classes for four or more of the last six years will be considered chronically out of compliance; the committee will meet no later than the 10th day to determine a resolution for oversized classes in any of these schools.

Any schools that have an oversized class after the Class Size Labor Management Committee’s attempt to resolve the issue may be reviewed by the UFT president and the schools chancellor. If the committee cannot resolve oversized class issues within the school, the UFT may file a demand for arbitration within two school days of the committee addressing the school. Arbitrations will start within five days of the filing of the demand.

Class-size staffing ratios for students with disabilities are determined by the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) and state education law. Call the UFT if you believe your special education class is oversized.

Basic instructional supplies

It is your principal’s obligation to provide you with basic instructional supplies and books, including textbooks, paper, assessments, chalk, microscopes and math manipulatives.

That’s a contractual right, written into Article 7R of the DOE-UFT contract governing teachers, which states that schools are responsible for providing “appropriate and sufficient basic instructional supplies and books to deliver an effective educational program” for students.

The 2018 contract expanded the paperwork reduction process to include other operational issues such as basic instructional supplies, which now include paper and assessment materials. 

If you find yourself short of basic supplies, let your chapter leader know. If the issue is not resolved at the school level within five school days, it can be escalated to the district paperwork and operational issues committee.