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Equity Issues

What is the Class Size Reduction Law?

In June 2022, the New York State Legislature passed Chapter 556 of the Laws of 2022, legislated as Senate Bill 9460 and otherwise known as the Class Size Law. The Law requires that NYCPS cap class sizes in all K-12 schools in New York City at the following levels - 20 children in Kindergarten to 3rd grade, 23 children from 4th to 8th grade, and 25 from 9th to 12th grade. NYCPS has 5 years to comply with these caps. We are currently at the end of the first year and the deadline for compliance is school year 2027-2028.  

But don't we want smaller class sizes?

Yes, but… There is limited research on the benefits of smaller classes with the bulk of this research showing benefits primarily at younger grades (K to 3rd grade) and with positive results only achieved with class sizes of around 15 students, smaller than those mandated by the Law. The caps proposed in the mandate are unlikely to be low enough to materially improve learning outcomes for students most in need of extra support. 


While smaller classes would allow a teacher to get to know their students better and increase student participation, it requires a huge amount of new physical space, much of which is not available right now. In addition, there is no funding provided for the Law, meaning budget cuts will have to be made if we are to implement the Law. With physical space and funding limited, imposing a sweeping, “one-size-fits-all” class size mandate will require a huge number of painful trade-offs. Are the uncertain benefits of smaller classes worth these trade-offs?

What are some problems with the Class Size Law?

  • Many families will no longer be able to attend their preferred, zoned, local school.
    While years of enrollment declines in NYCPS have resulted in many classes being in compliance with the mandate today, there are schools across New York City where the great majority of classes are above the mandate and will need a drastic reduction in enrolled students to comply with the Law. This includes many very popular neighborhood elementary schools or zoned high schools, which are often a primary reason families decide to move to a certain area. In many School Districts (i.e. District’s 20, 21, 22 in Brooklyn; District’s 24, 25, 26, 28 in Queens; District 31 in Staten Island), between 78-88% of all schools report a majority of their classrooms are over the caps. In many of these schools, there is not enough available space to meet the class size caps and enrollment at schools will be capped. But since most of the schools in these districts are over the limits, this will force many students to travel longer distances and possibly outside their district in order to simply attend a school with lower enrollment

  • There will be fewer seats in popular specialty programs and schools.
    The number of students in popular classes like Bilingual instruction, Advanced Placement, Integrated Co-teaching (ICT), Gifted & Talented classes will be reduced. Likewise for the specialized high schools and audition-based performing arts schools. For example, a high school offering AP classes with 34 students admitted would need to cap students to 25, effectively excluding 9 students from this accelerated education opportunity. In this example, if a school does not have space to create an extra class and hire an AP teacher, these 9 students will have to seek similar opportunities at another school, join general education classes, or may leave public school altogether in favor of charter or private schools. A Specialized High School such as Bronx Science would likely need to reduce the number of 9th grade seats offered through the SHSAT by approximately 150-200 seats.

  • Schools will lose classrooms for enrichment classes and support services.
    Because many schools do not have the physical space to meet the Law’s requirements, spaces intended for enrichment classes like Art, Music, Lab Science and Physical Education will be appropriated in order to create new general education classrooms. Schools will also be at risk of losing resource rooms for social workers, guidance, teacher training or health care.

  • Co-located 3K and Pre-K classes would be forced to move out of elementary schools.
    Another option for schools short on space would be eliminating 3K and Pre-K classes located in an elementary school. This would represent a hardship for many families who currently enroll all their children from Pre-K to 5th grade at the same location.

  • Teaching quality will decline as schools are forced to hire thousands of new teachers very quickly despite a nationwide shortage of qualified teachers.
    The State of California attempted a class size reduction initiative in the 1990’s which was later abandoned. There was a widespread decline in teacher quality as a result of the State having to quickly hire thousands of less-qualified teachers. The NYCPS has estimated an additional 10-12,000 teachers will need to be hired to comply with the Law. It is especially difficult to find qualified teachers in Science, Math, bilingual instruction and Special Education. 

  • Districts with lower enrollment will lose tenured, experienced teachers who will be able to transfer to new openings in Districts with higher enrollment.
    This is one of the most inequitable features of the Law. With many districts in northeast Queens, south Brooklyn and Staten Island being the most over-enrolled, they will have a high number of new teaching positions. With the transfer system prioritizing more experienced, tenured teachers, many of the best teachers in under-enrolled Districts in the Bronx, northern Manhattan and central Brooklyn will apply to transfer. This will lead to an increase in per student spending in our better-performing Districts and a decrease in per student spending in our neediest Districts.

Can the Law be changed?

The good news is the answer is “Yes!" But, it needs to be done quickly. The easiest way to change the law is with an amendment approved by the State Legislature. There are many ways the Law could be amended but one set of recommendations is available here in the Class Size Working Group Minority Report. We also need as many as possible to sign our Open Letter, so please sign and share it!


Any amendment will require parents and stakeholders to clearly communicate to their State Senator and State Assembly member that they want the Law to be amended. You can help by taking action (link to Take Action). It is very urgent that elected officials hear from as many people as possible before June 2024 when the current State Legislative session adjourns. 


It is imperative that we act now! Families have not felt the pain of the Law yet since the NYCPS has not started implementing the Law (NYCPS is in compliance through School Year 2024-2025). But, the NYCPS will start taking steps to comply with the Law next Fall 2024 when they will have to start limiting enrollment into popular schools to increase compliance in School Year 2025-2026. Any family with a child applying to Pre-K, K, Middle School or High School in the next 3 years should be extremely concerned!

What happens if the mandate outlined in the law isn't met?

NYC has a progressive funding model meaning that the funding follows the student. If the law isn’t met, all NYC students will potentially lose funding from the state.

How will my school be affected?

The best way to know how your school is being affected is to ask your SLT members. Ask if your school will limit the number of new incoming students and if resource rooms like art studios, music rooms, gyms, etc. will be lost. Also, ask how can your school ensure quality of new teacher hires.

  • Schools that could lose 20-30% of their seats:

    • High schools (partial list)

      • Stuyvesant High School

      • Bronx Science

      • Brooklyn Latin

      • Townsend Harris High School

      • Francis Lewis High School

      • Bayside High School

      • Forest Hills High School

    • Middle Schools (partial list)

      • Christa McAuliffe, District 20 in Brooklyn

      • Mark Twain, District 20 in Brooklyn 

      • Booker T. Washington, District 3 in Manhattan

      • Stephen Halsey Junior High School, District 28 in Queens

      • MELS, District 28 in Queens

      • Russell Sage JHS, District 28 in Queens

      • Queens Gateway, District 28 in Queens

    • Elementary schools (list pending)

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