In the past year, some of the richest and most powerful men in America – including Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and Michael Bloomberg – have come out in favor of increasing class sizes, claiming that this would be good for our kids – even in NYC and other large urban districts where students who have the greatest need for smaller classes are crammed into classes of 28, 30 or more.
It has not escaped notice that several of these men, (not the 1%, but the .00001% in terms of their wealth), send their own children to private schools where classes are capped at 16 students or less, yet they seem able to blithely ignore this contradiction.
I am sad to report that their musings are not hypothetical. Class sizes are increasing throughout the nation, and here in NYC, are now the biggest in over a decade in many grades. This fall, there were over seven thousand classrooms which violated the union contractual levels. These sharp increases have occurred despite the fact that the state’s highest court ruled that our students were deprived of their constitutional right to an adequate education, due in large part to excessive class sizes.
This is a worsening crisis that must be stopped.
Class Size Matters is working hard, every day, to counter the distortions and lies being spread by the oligarchs running our schools, and fighting to see that the city does not continue to violate our children’s rights. We will be filing complaints on behalf of parents and asking for the state to hold hearings on the unconscionable increases in class size that have occurred. You can be sure we will not rest until NYC and the state comply with their moral – and legal – obligations to our children. Please consider contributing now, by clicking here, to help us fight this battle.
Already this fall, we have made presentations before ten community district education councils and many other parent and community groups, to draw attention to the worsening class size crisis, and to demonstrate the ways in which the city has misused state funds that should have gone towards reducing class size. As a result of these appearances, six councils so far have passed resolutions protesting the increase in class sizes, the DOE has received over 100 emails as part of the public comment process, and we have engaged countless parents and community members in the conversation about this critical issue.
Here are just some of our other activities and accomplishments in 2011:
In February, we helped start a new national organization, Parents Across America, to provide parents with critical information about the damaging corporate agenda, including school closings, privatization, and an overemphasis on high-stakes testing, imposed against the will of parents and community members, and to promote positive and progressive change. PAA already has more than 12 chapters and affiliates nationwide.
In response to a report we had co-authored, the State Comptroller released an audit in March showing that NYC had underreported its dropout rate, leaving out 15 to 20 percent of students who were erroneously categorized as being “discharged”. As a result, the City Council passed a law that for the first time will require the DOE to release detailed reporting on the thousands of students who disappear off school registers each year without a diploma, but who are not counted as dropouts.
Throughout the spring and summer, we helped organize and participated in numerous rallies and press conferences to protest looming budget cuts and proposed layoffs of school aides and teachers, as well as the DOE’s unconscionable $120 million no-bid contract to Verizon during a citywide strike of their workers.
In July, we filed a lawsuit against the city’s providing free space to charter schools inside public school buildings – which causes yet more overcrowding and which we believe violates state law. Though we have not yet received a ruling, we are hopeful that the court will decide to protect the rights of public school children, so that they are no longer squeezed and pushed aside in their own buildings.·
In August, we spearheaded a successful campaign to persuade the NY State Comptroller to block a no-bid contract to Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation that could have jeopardized confidential student information.
We pushed for a new law, passed by the City Council this fall, that will require improved reporting on school overcrowding, including whether students have access to art rooms, science labs, and space for their mandated services, as well as gymnasiums and auditoriums.
We continue to operate two of the city’s largest electronic education list services, with more than 4000 subscribers combined. We also post regular news and commentary from parents on the NYC Public School Parents blog, at www.nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com, which was named one of the three best education blogs in the city and has received nearly one million hits since 2009.
In 2011, Class Size Matters was quoted more than 100 times, including in the NY Times, Daily News, NY Post, Wall St. Journal, Education Week, metro, AM-NY, El Diario, Los Angeles Times, DNA-info, Daily Kos, Business Week, Gotham Gazette, and GothamSchools, as well as on CNN, Fox-News, MSNBC, NY1, WCBS-TV, Channel 7 News, WPIX-TV, China Radio International, and numerous national and local public radio shows, on issues ranging from parental empowerment, high stakes testing, teacher evaluation, and school overcrowding.
But reducing class size remains our primary mission and focus. Though the NY State Legislature passed a law in 2007 requiring the city to reduce class size in all grades in return for receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in additional state aid, the city has ignored its commitments to our children.
Please join our campaign for smaller classes, to help ensure that NYC children someday soon receive the help and attention that they deserve.
Just click here, to make a tax-deductible contribution, or if you prefer, send a check, made out to Class Size Matters, 124 Waverly Pl., New York, NY 10011.
Special offer: For $100 and over, enjoy a complimentary 11-oz CSM Logo mug!
Thanks so much, and happy holidays to your family!
Leonie Haimson, Executive Director