Queens lawmaker hails governor’s signing of bill to reduce class sizes in New York City public schools

Senator John Liu legislation
Senator John Liu (Courtesy of Liu’s office)

State Senator John Liu joined parents and education advocates in applauding Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signing of the bill to reduce class sizes over a five-year period in New York City public schools on Thursday, Sept. 8.

The bill would cap class sizes in all public schools with 20 students in kindergarten through third grade; 23 students in fourth through eighth grade; and 25 students in high school. The five-year phase-in requires 20% of classes to comply with the limitations by fall of 2023, with an additional 20% each year until 100% of NYC classes are in compliance by school year 2027-2028.

State lawmakers passed the class size mandate bill alongside an extension of mayoral control of the city school system in the final days of the legislative session in June.

Liu, who is the chairperson of the Senate Committee on NYC Education and sponsored the bill (s9460), said NYC school kids have been denied a sound basic education for too long.

“This legislation forces the Department of Education to at long last develop a [five]-year plan to bring class sizes down to levels originally established by the DOE itself instead of merely paying lip service to the problem,” Liu said. “Moreover, the city is receiving $1.6 billion more state funding annually toward this purpose, and must stop with nonsensical rhetoric claiming ‘unfunded mandate’ and just get stuff done. Thanks to Gov. Hochul, NYC school kids will now get what they are entitled to.”

According to reports, the five-year phase-in plan was originally supposed to begin this month. However, Mayor Eric Adams had resisted the legislation saying that it would cost the city millions of dollars to hire more teachers and secure more classroom space to account for smaller class sizes. 

Adams had called on Hochul and state lawmakers to come up with funding to implement the change. After reaching a deal with the mayor and state lawmakers to delay the law from fully taking effect until 2028, with implementation beginning next fall, Hochul decided to sign the controversial bill. 

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, thanked Hochul for listening to the research showing that class size matters, especially for kids who need help the most, and for heeding the pleas of parents that it’s time to provide true equity to students who have long suffered from the largest class sizes in the state. 

“We are eager to help the chancellor, the UFT and the CSA put together an action plan to make sure that the implementation of this necessary improvement in our schools goes forward in an effective and workable manner,” Haimson said. 

For years, parents, teachers and advocates have demanded smaller class sizes to benefit all public school students, said Wendy Lecker, of the Education Law Center Senior Attorney. 

Now that Gov. Hochul has signed the class size reduction bill championed by Senators Robert Jackson and John Liu, city schools finally have another important tool to ensure their students receive a constitutional sound basic education,” Lecker said. 

Parent leaders Randi Garay and Shirley Aubin, who are co-chairs of the chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council that represents all the parent associations and parent-teacher associations in the city’s public schools, said they know that smaller classes have been a top priority of parents for decades and how desperately they are needed.

“In the wake of the pandemic and with the infusion of new state and federal funds, we believe that smaller classes are not only more critical than ever, but more achievable as well,” Garay and Aubin said.

Marina Marcou-O’Malley, operations and policy director of Alliance for Quality Education, said that students in NYC’s public schools will be better off thanks to the class size reduction bill signed by Hochul.

“By signing this bill into law, she is sending a clear and important signal that she is on the students’ side. We applaud the governor for her commitment to New York’s students, especially as we are moving toward the third and final year of the State’s Foundation Aid commitment,” Marcou-O’Malley said.