One of the main complaints you have received for years the City Department of Education (DOE), is that in many Latino and African-American minority neighborhoods there are classrooms that look like sardine cans.
And just when there are just over six weeks to go until the new school year begins, which seeks the full return of children to the classroom after more than 16 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the education authorities of the Big Apple announced that will allocate $ 18 million dollars in additional funds totaling 72 schools, many of them in Latino neighborhoods, which aims to reduce class sizes, hire more teachers and improve the learning process.
This was explained by the DOE after ensuring that they chose the benefited schools to deliver more resources to those who were deemed “most needy,” who had above-average overcrowded classes, low-income students, and also low state scores in subjects like math and reading.
The plan, which will give about $ 250,000 to each school, it intends that each educational center bring more teachers to their schools, at least 2 additional. In its announcement, the DOE acknowledged the negative impact that overcrowded classrooms they have managed for years, especially in low-income and vulnerable communities, has on the level of learning children receive.
“Educators know that smaller class sizes mean more attention for each child, leading to a greater focus on literacy. Through our academic recovery plan, we are supporting the ability of all students to read at grade level by the end of second grade, and thanks to our partners on the City Council, we are adding staff and reducing class sizes at some of our schools with the greatest needs, for that to happen ”, he assured Katie O’Hanlon, DOE spokesperson.
The official stressed that the City, which will also open 57,000 new school places, it is making “historic investments” in schools, in staffing and the goal of smaller class sizes.
A plan with double benefits
“The objectives of the initiative are twofold: reduce student-teacher ratios and support literacy instruction; having more staff available helps schools do both, ”added the Department of Education spokeswoman.
O’Hanlon mentioned that the DOE made an investment in Fair Student Financing (FSF) by bringing all schools in the city to 100%, which will allow schools to hire additional staff, including teachers, counselors, and literacy instructors.
“Having more educators in classrooms is one of the most direct ways to support a smaller student-teacher ratio citywide.“, Reiterated the DOE spokeswoman. “Together with the FSF and this new initiative, the DOE has a long-standing commitment to reducing overcrowding and supporting smaller class sizes for each school (…) Even during COVID-19, our face-to-face and totally remote classrooms never exceeded sizes contractual agreements prior to COVID ”.
The Department of Education ensures that the average number of students in classrooms primary are 32 students in the Title I Middle School, 30, in the non-Title I middle school, 33; and in the high school, 34.
“In fact, the face-to-face classes were on average from 9 to 12 studentsKatie O’Hanlon mentioned, although it should be noted that in the school year that recently ended, the vast majority of students opted for virtual education, which was reflected in small face-to-face classes.
Parents believe that it is not enough
Maria Martinez, a Colombian mother who has her 7-year-old boy registered in the PS 149 Christa McAuliffe, East Elmhurst-Corona, one of the 72 institutions that will receive additional funds, was positive that this campus receives more resources, but said it is not enough.
“The truth is important that they give more money, but I thought it was about 2 million or something like that for this school that is very big and still before the pandemic there were crowded halls, that in order to reduce it not only is it enough to hire a couple more teachers, but also to build more classrooms, and I don’t see that they are doing that around here yet ”, said the mother of the family.
The Mexican Sara Cruz, who has her three children studying at the same school since 2018, defended the work that teachers and managers do at PS. 149, but also recognized that to ensure that in September there are better conditions for children and parents, more funds have to be invested.
“I think what you ask as a dad is that there be more professionalism in everything. I think it is necessary to expand plans such as the one they have here for the arts that has helped not only children but also us parents, that they invest in more teachers and that the classes are smaller so that children can learn more and be more safe with COVID ”, the Mexican said.
Leonie Haimson, director of the organization Class Size Matters, which has fought a tough battle in the defense that all public school students are treated fairly and can have non-overcrowded classrooms, criticized the Department of Education announcing with great fanfare $ 18 million to only 72 of the more than 1,600 schools in New York City, when a substantial investment must be made.
“City Council pushed for $ 250 million to be spent on smaller classes next year; the Mayor would only accept $ 18 million, a small amount given the need for more academic support and social distancing. It is also a small amount given that the City will receive $ 8 billion in additional state and federal educational aid over the next three years, ”said the small class advocate. “Additionally, the DOE has apparently said that it will use some of these minimal funds to put two teachers in one classroom, which does not have the same impact as reducing class sizes.”
The activist recalled that in 2003, the highest court in the State in the CFE case said that too many classes in schools were a systemic problem, which deprived New York City students of their constitutional right to a sound basic education.
“However, the class sizes are even larger now, especially in the early grades. This small program will not come close to addressing this systemic problemHaimson warned, contradicting the DOE’s versions that classes have been reduced even before the pandemic.
Municipal Council promotes bill
The announcement of the $ 18 million for the City’s 72 schools It occurs just when the Municipal Council is pushing a bill that seeks, by mandate, to reduce the size of classes, promoted by the president of that body Corey Johnson and the chairman of the Council’s Education Committee, Mark Treyger.
The initiative, which was introduced in the legislative body last Thursday, was presented as a public health measure, raising the minimum room space per person to 35 square feet per student from the current 20 square feet. for grades 1-12, a move that was applauded.
“We are still facing a serious pandemic and there is an increasing possibility that variants of COVID will be with us in the coming years. To help ensure that public school classrooms remain safe places, we need stricter space limits for all students, not just the youngest in the city, ”he said. Councilman Mark Treyger.
“The world has changed forever because of this pandemic and there is no going back. We need to make sure our city’s building occupancy codes are up to date with modern science and public health data. The City is receiving significant federal and state resources to make this gradual plan a reality. “added the councilor.
Also, the Council Chairman of Finance, Daniel Dromm, showed his support for the bill, while saying that in addition to ensuring better learning, it ensures the safety of all students and teachers.
“It is important that the DOE prevent viral spread while COVID-19 still exists. The incorporation of a smaller class size will ultimately benefit future learning and the health of all school-age children in New York City, ”said the councilman for Jackson Heights, in Queens. “Due to overcrowding, in many districts like mine, this initiative will be challenging but it will also be worth it. I hope this legislation is approved ”.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) stressed that it is the right time for the Department of Education to make this important change in reducing class sizes.
“There are many reasons to support smaller classes, and health problems are the most immediate. Making sure not to crowd too many children in each classroom is an important step to reassure parents that we have learned from this pandemic, which is not as usual, ”said the teacher leader.
Under the new guidelines, the maximum number of students in a 500-square-foot classroom would be 14 and in a 750 square foot classroom, 21, which if achieved would incidentally become a triumph for the best learning of children, according to activists.
“This is a courageous and welcome move by the New York City Council to move the needle on class size, which despite the pressing need for smaller classes, the Mayor has refused to do” , said Leonie Haimson, who was optimistic that the legislation will see the light soon.
The legislation would require all schools to meet those standards by September 2024, with 33% of schools meeting them at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year and 66% at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year.
Likewise, the initiative would order the DOE to issue annual reports that guarantee the progress of reducing the sizes of classrooms until 100% of schools meet the new requirement for the 2024-2025 school year.
Investment plan data for schools with high needss:
- $ 18 million will be the additional funds earmarked.
- 72 are the benefited New York schools.
- $ 250,000 on average each school will receive.
- 2 teachers per classroom is one of the goals.
- 32 students is the average number of students in elementary classrooms, according to the DOE.
- 30 is the average for Title I middle school.
- 33 is the average for non-Title I middle schools.
- 34 is the average in high school.
- $ 250 million was the Council’s plan to be invested in reducing class sizes.
- An extra $ 8 billion will be received by the City in state and federal educational aid over the next three years.
What schools will receive the funds?
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.