On Thursday, April 12, nine parents from all five New York City (NYC) boroughs, along with Class Size Matters and the Alliance for Quality Education, filed a lawsuit against the New York Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia in the State Supreme Court in Albany to demand smaller classes in NYC public schools. Education Law Center, the nation’s legal defense fund for public education rights, represents the parents and advocates in this important case.
Under the Contract for Excellence Law (C4E), the State Education Commissioner in 2007 approved the New York City district’s plan to reduce class sizes over five years. The district failed to implement the 2007 plan. As a result, class sizes continue to increase across the city, with at least 291,809 students in classes of 30 or more as of November 2017.
In the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity rulings, New York’s highest court made clear that smaller class size is an essential resource to afford public school children their right to a “sound basic education” under the State constitution. The C4E law was enacted by the legislature to comply with this constitutional mandate in the New York City schools.
In July 2017, parents and advocates appealed to State Commissioner Elia to demand she enforce the C4E law and require the NYC district to follow the approved 2007plan by reducing class sizes to specified levels in all grades. The Commissioner dismissed the petition in December 2017, claiming that the district’s obligation had “expired,” even though the class size mandates under C4E law remain in full force and effect. Having given the Commissioner the opportunity to redress this legal wrong, parents have now filed a challenge to her decision not to require the district to follow the C4E law.
In a newly-released report, the New York City Council acknowledged that “NYC has still not met the agreed-upon class size reduction goals established in 2007.”
“The City cannot shirk its obligation to reduce class size under the C4E law and the State constitution by taking no action for five years to let the statutory clock run out,” said Wendy Lecker, ELC Senior Attorney. “The C4E law remains on the books, and New York City must live up to its duty to comply with the law and effectuate the constitutional rights of City school children.”
The parents and advocates are asking the court to overturn the Commissioner’s decision and order New York City to fulfill its obligations under the C4E law to reduce class sizes over the next five years.
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications