Class size reduction law problematic, reduces ‘equity’ for NYC’s neediest: report


The controversial state law requiring New York City public schools to reduce class sizes across the board could become more problematic and reduce “equity” for the neediest students amid budget cuts proposed by Mayor Eric Adams, a new report claims.

“The state legislature did not provide funding to implement the mandate, so the city will have to identify new revenue sources or repurpose existing funds,” reads the analysis conducted by the Urban Institute, a poverty fighting group.

The report says absent a change in the way funds are distributed, will reduce “funding equity” that aims to steer a higher percentage of education funding to disadvantaged students.

More funding instead will go to public schools in more affluent white and Asian neighborhoods, the report indicates.

“This additional cost [to lower class sizes] would reduce funding equity as measured by the average funding of schools attended by low-income students versus higher-income students,” the Urban Institute said.

“Under current school funding policy in NYC, the average low-income student attends a school with per pupil funding levels that are 7 percent higher than the school attended by the average higher-income student. Adding in the estimated cost of class size reductions reduces this measure of funding equity to 5 percent,” the report added.

“The cost would also reduce funding equity for students when analyzing the funding levels by race and ethnicity. The average Black student’s school currently has per pupil funding levels that are 13 percent higher than the school attended by the average white student and would fall to 10 percent. For Hispanic students, it would fall from 7 percent to 5 percent.”

A state law reducing class sizes for New York City schools could hurt the "neediest" students, according to a new report.
A state law reducing class sizes for New York City schools could hurt the “neediest” students, according to a new report. Dennis A. Clark

The chief researcher for the analysis questioned the wisdom of imposing expensive class size reductions across the board instead of targeting reductions to the neediest students.

“I don’t think the research on class size is strong enough to support the state telling local schools what their class sizes should be. Instead, district/schools should decide how to allocate resources between class size, teacher salaries, non-teaching staff, etc,” Urban Institute vice president Matthew Chingos told The Post Sunday.

“If a state is going to pass a class size law, then it should target it to the most disadvantaged students if its goal is to narrow achievement gaps. That would be the sensible thing to do,” he said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and the legislature — under intense lobbying from the United Federation of Teachers — approved a law in 2022 requiring schools in New York City to slash classes to a maximum of 20 students in grades K–3, 23 students in grades 4–8, and 25 students in grades 9–12 by the 2027–28 school year. Adams fought to stretch out the implementation.

The law will require as much as $1.9 billion per year to hire additional teachers.

Fully implementing the class size caps in grades K–5 under current school enrollment and programming would add an additional cost of $2,625 per student in these grades, an increase of about 9 percent over current spending on these students, the report said.

The report says the mayor and Council could level the playing field by implementing class size reduction through the fair funding student formula that considers factors such as poverty and the percentage of special education students.

According to the Urban Institute report, the class size cuts will reduce  “funding equity."
According to the Urban Institute report, the class size cuts will reduce “funding equity” at city schools. Gregory P. Mango

“Under this approach, schools with a greater need to reduce class sizes would spend more of the additional funds on that purpose, while schools that already have smaller classes could use the funds for other purposes. But this would be more expensive than funding only the schools with the greatest need for class size reductions,” the analysis said.

Chingos made other suggestions that could curb the costs of compliance, such as using a class size average instead of requiring that every classroom meet the benchmark.

Albany could also amend the law to raise the caps in classes that have two teachers in them by 25 percent  — from 20 to 25 students in grades K–3 — which would slash per-student cost of
implementation by 54 percent, from $2,625 to $1,197.

The UFT defended the law and said there should be no excuses to skirt it.

“Every student in New York City deserves smaller classes — a reality students in the rest of the state already enjoy. Just as it is the city’s responsibility to use the funds the state is giving to implement this law, it is also the city’s responsibility to fairly fund its public schools,” a UFT spokesperson said Sunday.

A spokesman for the city Department of Education and City Hall said the city is complying with the first phase of the law this year, which requires lowering class sizes in 20 percent of classrooms.

But DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer welcomed the Urban Institute report for pointing out the funding challenges.

“To fully implement this law, we need the funding necessary to hire additional teachers and build additional classrooms — there is no magical pot of money available,” Styer said.

“The Urban Institute, the NYC Independent Budget Office, and others who have studied the data have shown that the costs associated with this law are large, will make our school less equitably funded, and that the funding does not currently exist to implement the law — pretending otherwise does everyone a disservice.”

State Sen. John Liu (D-Queens), who chairs the panel on New York City education, said Albany provided the necessary funds for the city to meet the lower class-size requirements this year.

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