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Monday, February 26, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Teachers Sue NYC for Smaller Classes

BRONX (CN) - The New York City Board of Education reneged on a contract that would have given schools resources to reduce class size in underserved communities, teachers, their union, the NAACP and others claim in Bronx Supreme Court.

The United Federation of Teachers, The Hispanic Federation and others, including nonprofits and parents, claim the Board of Education accepted $1.5 billion in state funding on the condition that it would spend $760 million of it on a Five-Year Plan to reduce classroom size.

But the landmark "Contract for Excellence" failed because the Board allowed the money to be spent on other things, the teachers say.

"The DOE and the Chancellor have committed fraud on NYC children," said Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, one of the plaintiff groups, in a statement. "They are also violating the trust of taxpayers by failing to use hundreds of millions of dollars for the critical purpose for which they were intended."

Teachers say that Deputy Chancellor of the Board of Education Christopher Cerf was asked in a public hearing in March 2009 whether he thought the state's instructions on how to spend the money were voluntary.

He responded, "I don't believe that ... We believe we have an obligation to follow the directions of the law," according to the complaint.

But the Board allegedly used much of the allocated money to cope with new, and sever, budget cuts from the city.

In Bronx schools, P.S. 85 used portions of $503,000 allocation to class size reduction to offset a $615,000 budget reduction; P.S. 110 diverted its $190,000 to stanch a $269,000 slash; and P.S. 1 redirected $276,000 to cope with a $304,000 cut, according to the complaint.

As a result, classrooms became more crowded in each school, the teachers say.

Other schools in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn that fared no better. Queens CSD 27, Manhattan CSD 6 and Brooklyn CSD 18 all followed the same general pattern.

The plaintiffs want the Board of Education and Chancellor Joel Klein ordered to comply with the Five-Year Plan. They are represented by Charles Moerdler with Stroock, Stroock & Lavan.

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