Good morning. It’s Thursday. We’ll find out why some New York parents don’t want smaller classes in their children’s schools. We’ll also get details on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s trip to Israel.
Credit…Karsten Moran for The New York Times
A new law requiring smaller classes in New York City public schools is running into resistance from some unusual opponents: parents.
It sounds counterintuitive, and to be sure, large numbers of parents support the idea of reducing class sizes. But my colleague Troy Closson, who covers education in the city, says that what would usually be a selling point for a school system is already leading to a backlash in some neighborhoods, with others likely to follow. I asked him to explain.
You write that some parents are against smaller class sizes. That’s almost unheard of. What’s going on?
A state law requires smaller classes in all grades and at all schools in New York City by 2028. In city high schools, classes would shrink to 25 students, from 34, bringing them close to class sizes in some suburban districts.
Families that want their children to attend selective public high schools like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science worry that their chances could decrease when there are fewer seats available.
Whatever the city does, it’s going to mean some transition pain for some people.
Some schools that don’t have a lot of extra space will probably have to accept fewer students. Again, that’s a concern at elite high schools and other specialized schools, which are heavily valued by some low-income and immigrant families as the ticket to the middle class. Any plan that effectively changes how admissions work at those schools is sure to spark some debate.
But isn’t there an upside for the majority of students, who attend nonselective schools rather than selective, elite ones?
There are many high schools across the city that are under-enrolled. They lost students before and during the pandemic, so some families see this as an opportunity to balance out the system and redistribute students.
They’re worried that if that doesn’t happen, their schools will face budget cuts and drop programs or services that attract families — which could lead to a spiral of continued declining enrollment and still more cuts. These families say that balancing out enrollments would help smaller schools stay afloat.
Some families have also argued that because elite schools tend to have far fewer Black and Latino students than the system overall, spreading students out could help to desegregate schools in certain districts.
Do smaller classes really make a difference in academic achievement?
Research does show that smaller class sizes can benefit students. Studies don’t agree on how big those benefits are or whether smaller classes are the most cost-effective way to raise academic achievement, but many teachers and families do believe deeply that smaller classes matter.
Mayor Adams and school officials have already expressed concerns about recent reports that found that schools in the neighborhoods with the highest poverty levels have lower class sizes. Supporters of smaller class sizes point out that about three in every four students in city schools come from low-income households.
But if classes are smaller, will there be enough teachers?
The city needs to hire at least 9,000 new teachers to implement the class size law. That will cost more than $1.6 billion annually, by some estimates.
On top of that, some studies have suggested that for smaller class sizes to really benefit students, it’s important to keep teacher quality high, which can be a challenge, particularly at struggling schools. The schools that have more resources are the ones that are the most popular for teachers to work in.
Won’t schools need more classrooms?
Yes, the city is going to have to find additional spaces and probably even construct whole new school buildings. It’s still unclear exactly how many.
One estimate found that as many as 200 schools may need new facilities, potentially a tenth of the schools in the city.
That’s only one reason why, over the next couple of years, the class size issue will touch every part of the school system, from admissions to hiring, staffing and finances. It’s going to be a dominant conversation.
What is the political landscape here? Mayor Eric Adams wants to shrink the education budget, and aren’t there powerful factions backing the plan for smaller classes?
This has the potential to be a tough issue for the Adams administration. In the year since the class size law was passed, the chancellor and mayor have said that they like the idea of smaller classes but that the law doesn’t make sense for the city.
The challenge is that many families, many teachers and the teachers’ union are very supportive of the law — and, like the State Legislature, expect to see progress in carrying it out. At the same time, you have families at elite schools that also have political power.
Looming over all of this is that Adams received two years of mayoral control of the schools when the class size law was passed. Next year, he will be back in Albany, seeking another extension. Whether the city is actively making progress on plans for class size could factor into lawmakers’ decision.
Prepare for another mild day with sunshine and temperatures reaching the mid-60s. At night, expect a slight chance of showers with a low in the upper 50s.
In effect until Nov. 1 (All Saints Day).
The latest New York news
Migrants: The city will impose a 60-day limit on how long families with children can stay at any one shelter before having to leave and reapply to enter the system.
Rain: This has been the third wettest start to autumn in New York City, with rain pelting the pavement every weekend since early September. Now another potential coastal storm threatens to create a seventh consecutive dreary and wet weekend for people across the metropolitan region.
Twitter troll sentenced: A digital-age dirty trickster who used Twitter posts that looked like Hillary Clinton ads to spread false information before the 2016 presidential election was sentenced to seven months in prison.
Classical music festival: The Gateways Music Festival, held at the University of Rochester since 1995, has provided Black musicians with performing opportunities. “You feel like you’re home,” said Monica Ellis, a bassoonist.
Four-legged film festivals: The NY Cat Film Festival (Saturday) and the NY Dog Film Festival (Sunday) will offer short films about how people affect the lives of animals, and vice versa.
Gov. Hochul visits Israel in a show of support
Political leaders in New York routinely visit Israel. But my colleague Luis Ferré-Sadurní writes that the timing of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s impromptu trip is anything but routine.
She landed in Tel Aviv on Wednesday as Israel was amassing troops outside Gaza. After a security briefing at the airport, she consoled Israeli families that had been displaced in the attacks by Hamas terrorists. She visited a hotel that had been converted into a temporary shelter for nearly 400 people evacuated from Kfar Aza, a kibbutz near the Gaza border that was among the hardest hit.
Hochul called her trip a “solidarity mission” to show support for Israel and was scheduled to meet with diplomats and local officials.
“There is a deep, direct connection between New York State and Israel that has always been there, a bond steeled over decades,” Hochul said before leaving from Kennedy International Airport.
She said that “it’s easy to go when the sun is shining and everything is fine.” She added, “The community feels, in Israel and in New York, that my going during these times will be the most significant symbol of their importance to us.”
But the trip, Hochul’s first visit to Israel, is expected to be mutually beneficial. The presence of the governor of the state with the largest population of Jews outside Israel could underscore the idea that there was international opposition to Hamas’s incursion into Gaza.
I was running to see the annual orchid show at Rockefeller Center some years ago. It was late in the day, and the show was going to be closing soon.
As I walked quickly along Fifth Avenue, I saw a vendor selling Statue of Liberty masks. He had them hanging off his bike.
They caught my eye, so I stopped briefly to take a look. I asked whether he would be there later on because I was in a hurry to get to the show.
I’ll come with you, he said, and then asked a nearby hot dog vendor to watch the masks until he got back.
I couldn’t believe what was happening. All of a sudden, I was walking with this stranger who looked like Picasso and was trailing me around the orchid show.
It’s been more than 22 years now, and we are still friends.
— Cristina Klein
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Bernard Mokam and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].