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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Fri, Jul 20, 2007

Critics Argue Against Klein's Class-Size Reduction Plan

NY 1 News

Come September, city schools are supposed to get a huge cash infusion when the state makes good for shortchanging city schools for decades. But now, some advocates are worried the city's Department of Education will not spend the new money in the best way for school kids. NY1 Education reporter Michael Meenan filed the following report.

Creating smaller classes is supposed to be a big part of how the city spends hundreds of millions of dollars in increased state aid. It's a requirement mandated by Albany, and it can't come too soon says one high school student.

"If it's like 32 students, the class goes like out of control,” said student Jose Araujo. “It's too many students for the teacher."

School Chancellor Joel Klein agrees that students do better when classes are smaller. But he says he has already shrunk classes. He maintains there's now an average of 25 students to a teacher in city high schools and in the early grades it’s even lower.

Klein says he wants to target $141 million of the new state money for further class-size reduction, especially in middle schools where many classes are 30 kids or more per teacher.

But the teacher's union says classes need to be 20 kids per teacher and Klein's class-size reduction plan, based on school-by-school reviews, falls way too short.

"It was not supposed to be an amalgam of what principals wish lists were, school by school, and they put it together and give it to the state,” said United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

Klein argues that principals know best.

"We've got some schools where they're going to put two teachers in a class of 30,” said Klein. “They may not have the room to break up the class into two of 15. That's class-size reduction, maybe not in the view of some who want 20 in every class, which is not a real-word view in our context."

To prove how serious it is about reducing class sizes, the DOE says it's going to send in a team of specialists to 72 schools in September to teach administrators how to reduce class sizes.

The DOE is letting the leaders at one Chinatown junior high, where there are 30 students per class, decide what to do. But the group that brought the lawsuit that forced the state to provide the cash infusion says Klein's approach risks losing a chance for real class-size reduction.

"We need to get to a greater level of specificity beyond saying there will be coaching and supportive services,” said Geri Palast of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

The state education commissioner has the final say on whether or not the DOE's class-size reduction plan meets their approval. A decision is expected in mid August.

-Michael Meenan

Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE Litigation CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the state’s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >