New York City

City Council passes class size transparency bill

Compliance with lower class sizes has been a major sticking point in the push to renew mayoral control in Albany.

New York City Council Member Rita Joseph passed a new class size transparency bill.

New York City Council Member Rita Joseph passed a new class size transparency bill. John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

The New York City Council passed legislation Tuesday requiring the Department of Education to be more transparent and accurate about how many students are in classes as it strives to comply with the new state law requiring the city to make public school class sizes smaller.

The bill’s passage comes as the state Legislature considers extending New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ control over the public school system as the policy’s June 30 expiration looms. Central in that ongoing debate is whether the mayor is truly committed to phasing in lower class sizes at all schools by 2028. State lawmakers passed that law in 2022, including it in the final deal that granted a reluctant Adams a two-year extension of mayoral control. Elected officials, including state Senate New York City Education Committee Chair John Liu, have so far expressed little appetite to grant the mayor another four years during ongoing budget negotiations.

While the city is currently in compliance with the law, Adams and schools Chancellor David Banks have repeatedly expressed concerns that schools will be forced to make difficult decisions as the requirements become more stringent. He has urged the state to provide more funding to help the city comply. But state lawmakers counter that they have already supplied enough money to implement the law. In December, a city-convened working group released a sweeping report full of recommendations for how the school system can comply with the law such as capping student enrollment at overcrowded schools and using financial incentives to boost teacher hiring and retention, but advocates – and City Council members – charge that the Adams administration isn’t taking the necessary steps to prepare. Meanwhile in Albany, some lawmakers have suggested that Adams’ failure to prepare and comply with the mandate could jeopardize his bid for an extension of mayoral control.

The bill that the City Council passed Tuesday would require schools to report how many students are actually in class sizes instead of averages while also providing detailed data on how many students are in special education classes or are learning English. 

“We’ve always needed this data,” said Education Committee Chair Rita Joseph, the bill’s sponsor.