Parents, Teachers Protest in New York City Over Class Sizes

While crowded classrooms, program eliminations and staff cuts might be the new normal across the country, as many school districts deal with lowered education funding due to the recession, students, teachers, administrators and lawmakers in New York City want those in charge to know that to them, it’s personal. EdVox reports that at a recent “School Cuts Hurt” event, people got together to remind New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that there are real faces and real stories behind the disappearing dollars.

Organizers collected first-hand accounts of the impact of the $1.3 billion in education funding cuts on those inside the system. The campaign was put together by the Alliance for Quality Education and Citizen Action of New York and seeks to present the testimonials to Governor Cuomo and other New York legislators after holding a series of 8 rallies across the state.

The examples quoted by EdVox cover a whole range of experiences, from administrators trying to cope with staffing cuts to parents worried about overcrowded classrooms and loss of after-school programs. Nikki Jones, the Communication Director for the AQE wrote:

“Just weeks into the school year, the stories of pain due to massive state education budget cuts are being echoed across the entire state of New York. Effective programs have been scaled back or eliminated. In addition, more than 10,000 teaching and other critical staff positions have been cut. For many students, particularly in high needs schools, the cuts will serve as a huge stumbling block to their educational success.

Carlos Ruiz, a head of the Parents Association of the High School for Law in Manhattan expressed frustration at the Governor’s claims that the cuts will be painless and easy for schools to work around.

“I don’t want to hear from Gov. Cuomo that these school cuts won’t hurt. That’s outrageous. Our kids are struggling and our classes are already overcrowded. At my school we’re losing an art teacher, our after-school program—and its very likely that I will be losing my parent coordinator.”

Many of those whose stories were read at the rally especially focused on the problem of classroom overcrowding that is now endemic in New York schools. This is a frustration especially felt by schools in New York City which, according to the New York Daily News, is experiencing its worst levels of overcrowding in a decade. Officials from the unions representing teachers and administrators told the Daily News that 25% of classrooms now exceed the city-mandated size limits. Although the classrooms can have a maximum of 34 students, according to the Union President Michael Mulgrew, a quarter of the students have at least one class daily that exceeds that number.

“Our worst fears have now been confirmed,” said Mulgrew, noting that nearly 1,000 more city classrooms exceed size limits now than last year. High schools are more overcrowded than other schools, with nearly 5,000 high school classrooms exceeding the union’s contractual size limit of 34 students.

The union officials said that they plan on filing a complaint with the city in the next few weeks.