Queens parents protest legislation mandating decreased public school class sizes

Photo by Ethan Marshall

On Friday, several parents and community members from Districts 25, 26 and 28 gathered outside Senator John Liu‘s office on Bell Boulevard in Bayside to protest against the passage of legislation S9460. Passed by the State House and Senate last May, S9460 calls for the mandatory decrease of classes in public schools over the next five years.

The parents there called for Governor Kathy Hochul to veto the bill. They expressed concern about the displacement of several students within the school districts. Additionally, parents said the mandates will negatively impact several programs that are beneficial to students.

PLACE NYC Co-President Yiatin Chu (Photo by Ethan Marshall)

According to PLACE NYC Co-President Yiatin Chu, mandating class sizes would cause seats in several programs — that parents feel are critical to their children — to be eliminated. These programs include gifted and talented, AP courses, specialized high schools and middle and high schools that are in high demand. She also heavily criticized the argument that smaller class sizes lead to better performance from students.

“[Districts 25, 26 and 28] are some of the top performing districts in New York City, even with class sizes that would exceed the mandate,” Chu said. “Research shows that teacher quality and curriculum are far more important to student outcomes than class sizes. Most of the schools in our districts are already over capacity. There is simply no more space.”

New York City Parents Union President Mona Davids (Photo by Ethan Marshall)

New York City Parents Union President Mona Davids criticized the use of the $4.2 billion in funds gained through the settlement of the New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER) lawsuit. Liu cited this as the necessary funding for the mandate. However, according to Davids, who was one of the plaintiffs in the case, she and the other plaintiffs were told the New York City mayor and school chancellor would get to decide on how to use those funds after consulting with them.

“We fought for this money to go directly towards our children, to go towards providing academic intervention, tutoring services, services for our students with special needs, to expand gifted and talented classes, to get more specialized high schools and more local quality schools in all of our districts,” Davids said. “We don’t need small class sizes. It’s about the quality of the teaching and the learning and our children are not learning. But with this money, we can bring back these programs and really roll out accelerated curriculum in every school district throughout the city.”

While Senator Liu has invited these parents to express their issues to him at his upcoming town hall on Aug. 17, they are upset after being told that amendments to address their concerns cannot be made until the Senate reconvenes for its next legislative session, which likely won’t be until January 2023.

S9460 was passed by the State House and Senate approximately three days before the end of the 2022 session. Since no other action can be taken on the bill until the next session, these parents are calling for Governor Hochul to veto it.

Despite the criticism aimed at Senator Liu by the protesters, he sent a representative there to invite them to his office and discuss their concerns with him once they were done speaking. While the protesters expressed frustration over the bill’s passage, they also said they are hopeful that action can be taken to help ease their concerns.