By STEVE BITTENBENDER
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – As the New York State Legislature’s 2022 session was winding down, lawmakers in Albany reached an agreement on New York City public schools that extends the mayor’s authority over them but also calls for smaller class sizes.
There had been some differences between legislators and Mayor Eric Adams, with city leaders saying mandates to reduce class sizes would dramatically increase costs.
In the end, the legislature approved a package that expands the city’s Panel for Education Policy from 15 members to 23. The mayor would be able to appoint 13 members. Lawmakers also approved a bill that calls for New York City schools, by the start of the 2027-28 school year, to set class sizes at 20 students for kindergarten through third grade, 23 students per class in grades fourth through eighth and 25 per class in high school.
“Smaller classes are key to providing a sound basic education to our students,” said Assemblymember Manny De Los Santos, D-Manhattan, who sponsored the class-size bill. “Based on my decade of experience as a school social worker, I know that capping the size of classes in city schools will be transformative in improving academic performance for students who need it most.”
State Sen. John Liu, D-Queens, who chairs the Senate Committee on New York City Education, tweeted Thursday the legislative package will include $1.6 billion in additional annual funding for the city’s schools.
“This is a huge victory for NYC school kids that will provide students with a sound basic education… This is a funded mandate!” he said.
While mandating the smaller class sizes, lawmakers did not give Adams as much time as he wanted to continue overseeing the city’s public schools. He and Gov. Kathy Hochul pushed for extending the mayor’s authority for four more years. The legislature gave him two instead.
In a statement issued Friday, Mayor Adams expressed a cautious hope about moving forward.
“While there is more work to do to deliver on the priorities New Yorkers are asking for, we are optimistic that there is a way forward on key elements, including ensuring we achieve the shared goal of smaller class sizes without forcing the city into a fiscal crisis and impacting programs for our most vulnerable students,” the mayor said.
The bills now head to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk.
Thursday was supposed to be the final day of the session, and while the Senate wrapped up its business on time, the Assembly worked into Friday before concluding.