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Oversight Hearing on Implementing the State Class Size Law in New York City 

February 29, 2024
In the Media, Testimony

We would like to thank the New York City Council’s Committee on Education for holding this important oversight hearing on class size reduction. INCLUDEnyc has worked with hundreds of thousands of families since our founding 40+ years ago, helping them navigate the complex special education service and support systems.

We testify today to highlight the need for the City to equitably implement this law to the greatest extent possible by making operational changes that impact how it assesses, utilizes, and maximizes existing school spaces, the relationship of enrollment planning and lowering class size, staffing and hiring, and instructional implications.

But most of all, we speak today on the immediate need for the City to prioritize special education better and address how the implications of this law will systemically and culturally further widen the achievement gap between general education students and the hundreds of thousands of students receiving special education services and support if it does not have mechanisms in place and adequate funding in place. 

We also would like to thank Chairwoman Joseph and this committee for their efforts calling for more transparency and accountability by proposing an amendment to a local law that will require NYPS to report actual class size and expand reports on the number of students in special programs. We fully support this so resources can be best aligned with the needs. 

NYC school-based data shows the direct relationship between class size, student access to qualified special education teachers, and individual learning outcomes for existing students with IEPs. Big class sizes negatively impact the over-referral of general education students for special education services, a teacher’s ability to deliver student-centered instruction and interventions with fidelity, and effective classroom management. 

Furthermore, the City must proactively implement this law to ensure students with disabilities can attend schools as close to their homes as possible as per the federal legal special education mandates via the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and are not forced to be bused to other districts; especially the 26,000+ students with more involved developmental and academic needs who attend District 75 programs.

Without this, we fear it will further academically, socially, and culturally segregate one of the most historically segregated subgroups of underserved students not only in New York City but in the entire United States. And not only in terms of disability and educational segregation, but also racially, ethnically, and socio-economic perspectives too. Because of all this, we must press on the City that this is also a civil rights issue.

As a result, we recommend the Department of Education and City:

  • Ensure all students with disabilities are protected, and not harmed unintentionally, as the City implements the new class size law
  • Guarantee all students with disabilities can attend school in their home districts, and are not forced to be bused to and from programs to other districts, as the City implements the new class size law
  • Develop and implement mechanisms that provide protections specifically for District 75 programs in co-located buildings 
  • Make certain there is appropriate space for serving all students with disabilities in each and all school buildings, including District 75 co-located schools, special education self-contained classes, ICT classes, evaluations, the delivery of related services, and IEP meetings
  • Provide financial incentives for and support to special education teachers in exchange for working as a NYCPS special education teacher for a certain number of years and staying for the full school year
  • Expand NYC Teaching Collaborative program or similar programs, with a focus on recruiting, training, and mentoring
  • Make certain all programs have the required number of qualified teachers 
  • Assure all programs have adequate funding

Thank you for taking the time to consider these important matters. We look forward to working with you to improve equity and access for all students with disabilities in New York City. 

Lori Podvesker
Director of Disability and Education Policy