New York City and state officials urged Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign a bill on Wednesday that would shrink class sizes in the city’s public schools, pressing the governor to act on legislation that many teachers and families have long advocated for.
The fight has pitted proponents of smaller class sizes — deeming it a pivotal step toward better educational outcomes — against a slate of officials, including Mayor Eric Adams, who say the cost of reducing class sizes will necessitate education cuts elsewhere and outweigh any potential benefits.
But the cost argument has struck a nerve with parents and lawmakers alike, given recent boosts in funding from both the federal and state governments.
“Those of us who work up in Albany and down in Washington D.C. did our jobs,” said state Sen. Jessica Ramos in a rally outside of City Hall. “We delivered the money. We delivered the money — every damn dime — for our schools to have everything that they need.”
Schools in New York state, once grimly familiar with belt-tightening measures in the face of budget cuts, saw an unexpected windfall last year in the form of federal and state funding.
The class size bill, meanwhile, passed the state Legislature just as this year’s session came to a close, alongside another bill extending mayoral control of the city’s school system for two years. Mayoral control had been a sticking point in state budget negotiations, and was ultimately punted to the end of the legislative session as lawmakers insisted they had until June 30 to extend the school governance measure. The class-size bill was part of a deal legislators struck to extend Adams' control for two years, but they are two separate pieces of legislation.
A spokesperson for Hochul did not immediately comment on whether the governor would sign the class size bill. Mayor control expires June 30.
Adams has actively opposed the class size legislation, stoking the ire of politicians and families already upset over cuts to the city’s education budget, which is made up of several streams of funding including federal Covid-19 relief money. The city recently approved a record-breaking, $101 billion budget.
“While my administration strongly supports lower class sizes, unless there is guaranteed funding attached to those mandates we will see cuts elsewhere in the system that would harm our most vulnerable students in our highest need communities — including the loss of counselor positions, social workers, art programs, school trips, after-school tutoring, dyslexia screenings, and paraprofessionals,” Adams said in a recent statement.
Some groups and researchers citing cost, along with a mixed bag of studies, have also come out in opposition to the bill, urging the governor to veto it.
But some officials say it will be a boon to students and teachers alike, as they continue to grapple with burnout from the demands and fallout of pandemic schooling.
“Our teachers are making miracles in our schools every day with the limited resources they have,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman said.