July 6, 2007 City Schools Focus New Aid on Reducing Class Sizes By JULIE BOSMAN
Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein announced yesterday how the city school system plans to spend $228 million in new education financing from the state, including allocating nearly half the money to reduce class sizes.
That money, $106 million, will allow the city to add 1,300 teachers to cut class sizes, and officials say they will concentrate on the most crowded classrooms with students most at risk of failure.
The city also plans to use $57 million for increased instructional time for students, $44 million toward professional development for teachers and principals, $20 million for middle and high school restructuring and $294,000 for expanding full-day prekindergarten slots.
The money is part of $1.03 billion in increased education aid for New York City this year ? roughly $700 million from the state and $300 million from the city. It came after a long legal battle over equitable school financing that left Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the State Legislature facing a court order, which said New York City?s schools and other high-needs school districts were being shortchanged.
Much of the city?s new money is reserved for set needs like collective bargaining contracts or special education. The $228 million, under the state?s new Contracts for Excellence program, has to be used for certain purposes and be accounted for and approved by the state.
Class sizes have been a volatile issue in New York City, and if the new money were distributed equally it would result in an average reduction of only 0.3 students per class in kindergarten through third grade; a reduction of 0.8 students in fourth through eighth grades; and a reduction of 0.6 students per class in high school.
Garth Harries, who heads the Education Department?s Office of New Schools, said that the city, instead, was going to look at its most overcrowded classrooms and that the effort would have to be phased in over many years. The $106 million is only a first step, he said.
?We know that we?ve got a multi-year challenge ahead of us,? Mr. Harries said in an interview. ?We believe these are fair and reasonable goals for the first year of that.?
Leonie Haimson, the executive director of a parent group called Class Size Matters, called the class size reduction proposal ?so minimal as to be meaningless.?
Randi Weingarten, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, who had also been campaigning for smaller class sizes, said there was nothing in the city?s plan ?that explicitly says class size will be meaningfully reduced.? She also criticized the Education Department for releasing the proposal during summer vacation.
Public hearings on the proposal, which still has to be approved by the state if it is to take effect, will be held next week. The final plan is to be submitted to the state by July 15.