Budget Cuts Cause Even Bigger Classrooms in NYC Schools

An average kindergarten class

An average kindergarten class

While all class sizes rose this year, high school students and kindergartners are particularly feeling the increase in class size.

Supposedly, in 2008, the average size of an English class was 24.7 students, although most high schools have at least 30 students in each class. The average number is up to 26.4 this year, according to preliminary figures from the Department of Education. The number of students in high school science classes has also risen from 26.1 to 27.4.

There was also a spike in enrollment in kindergarten classes, by about 5 percent, which is contributing to the increase in class size. In Manhattan, kindergarten enrollment rose by 9 percent, the biggest in all five boroughs. The increase in kindergarten class size went from 20.2 to 21 in Manhattan.

The largest rise was in District 3, located on the Upper West Side, by 15 percent. This was figured out in an analysis by advocacy organization, Class Size Matters.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, said that 38 percent of kindergarteners are in overcrowded classrooms with more than 25 students. First graders are also experiencing an increase in size, to 22 students.

“It’s very sad,” Ms. Haimson said, “since most experts believe that these are the two most important grades to keep class sizes low.”

Although the city’s budget cuts are responsible for the increase in classroom size, another issue is that enrollment has increased for the first time in a decade, according to William Havemann, a schools spokesman. Apparently, the city closed a bunch of kindergartens that were part of the day-care system of the Administration for Children’s Services, due to budgetary decisions. The result: hundreds of students enrolling in public schools, at the worst possible time.

Because of the cuts, Mr. Havemann said, there are 1,650 fewer teaching positions this year. “We are encouraged by the fact that we have seen relatively modest increases in class size, at a time when other cities struggling with the same challenges have seen worse,” he said.

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