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Campaign for Fiscal Equity
 

Wed, Nov 28, 2007

Group Urges Immediate Action to Reduce Size of Classes

By Jennifer Medina, The New York Times

City school officials could begin reducing class sizes immediately in more than 150 of New York’s lowest performing schools, according to a report released yesterday by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the advocacy group that successfully sued the state for more money for the public school system.

The report said the city was not effectively using either its current budget or classroom space to reduce class sizes significantly in each of the 408 schools identified by the state as needing improvement. The group argues that reducing class sizes should be a top priority for the city’s Education Department. It called its report, which outlines specific plans for individual schools, a “road map” to that goal.

“If you look at what’s been done in the class size reduction plan, there has certainly been movement,” said Geri D. Palast, executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. “But left to their own devices, even in the early grades they have not done enough.”

Deborah Wexler, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said the city had tried to reduce class sizes for years, adding, “We are happy to consider the recommendations in the report.”

After the group won the lawsuit, the Legislature and Gov. Eliot Spitzer approved a plan last year to give the city billions more in the next several years, including a $700 million increase this year. Some of that money is subject to approval by the state’s Education Department.
In order to win the state’s approval last week for its plans to spend $258 million of the aid, the city had to agree to put more of it — $153 million — into reducing class size.

The “vast majority” will be spent on 1,300 additional teachers this year, Ms. Wexler said. Five hundred teachers were hired using money that was cut from the central budget and sent directly to schools, and 925 classrooms have been added this year, she said.

The report says classes for kindergarten through fifth grade should have no more than 20 students, sixth- through eighth-grade classes should have no more than 23 students, and high school classes should be capped at 24. To meet those standards in each of the 408 neediest schools, the report said, the city would have to increase the number of classrooms by more than 2,500, 866 of which would have to be built.


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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 >