Education Reform

Leonie Haimson: Why Does Mayor Bill DeBlasio Refuse to Reduce Class Size?

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Leonie Haimson remembers that Bill DeBlasio promised to reduce class sizes when he first ran for mayor of New York City in 2013. She is executive director of Class Size Matters. He even signed his promise. But when he got extra money, he spent it on universal pre-K.

Now more new money is arriving for the schools, and he is resisting using it to reduce class size, despite the obvious benefits to the neediest children, those who would be helped by extra attention.

She writes:

After he was elected, de Blasio never followed through and focused on expanding preK and 3K instead.

Still, when parents pressed him about the need for smaller classes, he repeatedly said that he would do this when he finally received the full funding from the state from the CFE lawsuit.

Now that our schools are receiving that additional CFE funding of $530M next year, rising to $1.3B annually over the next three years, not to mention $7B in additional federal aid to our schools, he no longer has this or any excuse to deny NYC children their right to smaller classes.

We have heard that instead, de Blasio is arguing for spending a very small amount towards putting two teachers in a classroom. Yet doubling up on teachers has not been shown through research to have the same positive impact as lowering class size, nor does it have the same effect in terms of creating a focused, engaged learning environment.

In fact, the number of inclusion classes with two teachers has grown steadily over the last decade, and now fully one third of all elementary school children in NYC public schools are in classes with two teachers. Yet there has been NO significant improvement in achievement as gauged by the NAEP results over this period for either general ed or special ed students, or in any other way that can be measured.

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