Classes in New York Too Big, Students Suffering

While many cities across the United States, including Seattle and Tulsa, are facing overcrowded schools, perhaps none are quite as dire as New York City. Overcrowding in New York City schools has hit a 10-year high, a situation that has led to much finger-pointing and blame-shifting. But regardless of the reasons, in the end it is the students who wind up suffering the most.

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'Stop This Craziness'

Many fingers are pointing blame at huge budget reductions for the current condition of New York City schools. More than $1.5 billion in budget cuts over the past few years has led to fewer teachers and fewer schools even as student numbers increase.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), spoke about the situation from a high school in Lower Manhattan in September. Referring to budget cuts, Mulgrew said, 'We have to stop this craziness,' reported The New York Times.

crowded classes public schools new york city

The Blame Game

While a shrinking budget has undoubtedly played a major part in the overcrowded troubles facing New York City schools, some are placing blame elsewhere.

UTF has said that the New York Department of Education (DOE) was ordered by the state to lower class sizes and even brought the matter to court (the suit was dismissed in July 2011). The DOE simply shifted blame back to budget cuts as the reason for their inability to reduce class sizes.

Others point to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, claiming he has broken a campaign promise. 'He ran for office on a promise that he would reduce class sizes and he has failed miserably,' Leonie Haimson told PIX 11 in September. Haimson is executive director of Class Size Matters, a nonprofit advocate for the reduction of class sizes not just in New York City public schools but in schools across the entire country.

A Problem Years in the Making?

Perhaps no one can say they didn't see this coming.

Back in 1995, the New York City Comptroller's Office of Policy Management issued a report titled Overcrowding in New York City Public Schools: Where Do We Go From Here?, which began: 'New York City schools are severely overcrowded and the problem will probably get substantially worse over the next decade.' The report went on to discuss the deplorable conditions in some schools, where classes were actually held in closets and bathrooms!

A 1995 report from the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College stated that overcrowding was 'seriously eroding instruction and learning.'

Suffer the Children

Increased class sizes can have an adverse effect on some students. For instance, classes in grades K-3 have grown from 21 or 22 to, in some cases, more than 30. Larger class sizes can lead to more students falling behind. According to research, class size during these formative years can also determine future achievement and success not just in school but life in general.

In some city high schools, as many as 41 students can make up a single class and lunch periods can begin as early as 10 a.m. and even as late as 3 p.m. About 2,600 classes in high schools throughout Queens have more than 34 students. At Herbert Lehman High School in the Bronx, senior Jae Maree Marty told The New York Times, 'All of my classes are full. I have to go to class early to get a seat.'

While classes may not be meeting in bathrooms as they did a decade and a half ago, things are bad and could get worse as funding for education continues to deteriorate. Said Haimson, 'These are third world conditions in the richest city in the world.'

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