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Class size reduction law could cost New York City schools $1.9 billion a year

July 13, 2023
A report from the city's Independent Budget Office says the school system would need to hire 17,700 additional teachers to fully meet revised class size requirements.

A new law requiring reduced class sizes in New York City public schools could cost nearly $2 billion a year when fully in place, according to an analysis from the city's Independent Budget Office (IBO).

The Gothamist reports that the analysis concluded that carrying out the class size reductions would require the school system to hire as many as 17,700 more teachers – which will cost between $1.6 billion and $1.9 billion per year.

“The IBO’s independent report backs up what Chancellor [David] Banks has been saying since this law was proposed – while we support lowering class sizes, this unfunded law will require very real, serious tradeoffs and hard choices,” said education department spokesperson Nathaniel Styer.

Passage of the law last year by the state legislature was a major victory for many parents and members of the United Federation of Teachers, who have pushed for lower class sizes, citing positive effects on student achievement and behavior. But city officials have said they do not know how they will find the funding, space and staff to meet the new requirements once the law is fully in effect.

Under the law, kindergarten through third grade classes will be capped at 20 students, fourth through eighth grade classes will be capped at 23 students, and high school classes will be capped at 25 students. For comparison, kindergarten classes were previously capped at 25 students, first through sixth grade classes were capped at 32 or 33 students, middle school at 30 to 33 students, and high school at 34 students.

The new class size requirements will be rolled out at all the city’s schools over five years. Schools can be exempt from the class size limits if they are approved by the education department as well as the teachers' and principals' unions.

The city has said that 39% of classes already meet the new mandate, which is nearly the benchmark required by the law next school year, when 40% of classes are required to comply.

But later years pose a challenge.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of the group Class Size Matters, said the city must build more seats and plan to hire significantly more teachers.

The city could lose some state funds if it fails to comply with the law, and Mayor Adams' administration has convened a class size working group to help the school system meet the mandate.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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