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September  28,  2016  

MaryEllen  Elia  
New  York  State  Commissioner  of  Education  
New  York  State  Education  Building  
89  Washington  Avenue  
Albany,  NY  12234  
Re:  New  York  City’s  2016-­‐17  Contract  for  Excellence  Plan  
Dear  Commissioner  Elia:  
Education  Law  Center  (ELC)  advocates  on  behalf  of  New  York  public  school  children  to  
secure   their   right   to   sound   basic   and   quality   education   under   state   and   federal   law.     In  
furtherance   of   this   mission,   ELC   works   to   ensure   adequate   and   equitable   school   funding   to  
comply  with  New  York’s  constitutional  mandate  and  compliance  with  the  Contract  for  Excellence  
(“C4E”)  law  governing  district  use  of  increases  in  school  funding.  
We   write   to   inquire   about   the   status   of   New   York   City’s   C4E   plan   for   2016-­‐17.     The  
schedule  posted  on  the  New  York  State  Education  Department  (SED)  website  indicates  that  on  
New  York  City  (NYC  or  City)  was  to  have  submitted  their  plan  on  August  25,  and  on  August  31,  
“recommendations  on  approval”  were  to  be  submitted  you.  The  schedule,  however,  does  not  
provide  for  a  date  by  which  you  will  post  your  determination  on  the  NYC  plan.      
ELC   has   raised   serious   concerns   with   the   NYC   2016-­‐17   C4E   plan,   specifically   with   the  
absence  of  any  specific  provisions  to  comply  with  the  class  size  reduction  mandates  in  the  C4E  
law.  As  you  know,  the  C4E  law  and  accompanying  regulations  require  a  five-­‐year  citywide  class  
size   reduction   plan   setting   forth   class   size   targets   for   specific   grade   spans.     While   the   City  
established  class  size  targets  in  2007,  it  has  never  fulfilled  its  obligation  to  meet  those  targets.    
Moreover,  for  the  past  several  years,  the  City  has  failed  to  set  forth  any  class  size  reduction  plan  
as  required  by  the  C4E  law.    This  year,  yet  again,  the  City’s  C4E  plan  fails  to  comply  with  the  law.    


As  in  the  City’s  2014-­‐2015  and  2015-­‐2016  C4E  plans,  its  2016-­‐2017  plan  contains  only  a  
bare-­‐bones  statement  that  the  New  York  City  Department  of  Education  (DOE)  will  “focus  Class  
Size  Reduction  planning  efforts  on  the  School  Renewal  Program.”    No  specific  goals  are  cited,  and  
we  have  no  confidence  that  any  substantial  reductions  in  class  size  will  occur,  given  the  failure  of  
the  DOE  to  allocate  any  funds  to  hire  additional  teachers  in  these  schools.    Indeed,  even  though  
the   DOE   made   the   exact   same   statements   in   last   year’s   C4E   plan,   Class   Size   Matters   found   that  
nearly  40  percent  of  Renewal  schools  did  not  reduce  class  size  and  only  7  percent  had  capped  
class   sizes   at   the   original   C4E   goals   of   20   students   per   class   in   grades   K-­‐3,   23   per   class   in   grades  
4-­‐8,  and  25  in  core  high  school  classes.    Moreover,  even  if  the  City  does  follow  through  on  its  
promise  to  lower  class  size  in  these  98  or  so  schools,  it  would  not  fulfill  its  obligations  under  the  
law  which  requires  citywide  reductions  in  average  class  size  across  more  than  1500  schools.  
As   we   explain   in   the   attached   testimony   submitted   to   DOE,   and   our   recent   report,  
“Reducing  Class  Size  in  New  York  City:  Promise  vs.  Practice,”  the  City  has  persistently  failed  to  
fulfill  its  obligation  to  reduce  class  size  consistent  with  the  C4E  mandates.    As  a  result,  NYC  class  
sizes   have   grown   far   above   the   City’s   original   targets   in   nearly   every   grade   and   substantially  
above  the  levels  that  existed  in  2007.    The  class  size  reduction  mandates  in  the  C4E  law  are  based  
on   compelling   evidence   that   small   class   size   provides   lasting   educational   and   life   benefits   to  
students,  especially  at-­‐risk  children.    Conversely,  increasing  class  size  is  detrimental  and  likely  
results  in  substantial  social  and  educational  costs  in  the  future.    
Accordingly,   please   promptly   advise   whether   or   not   you   have   approved   the   City’s   C4E  
plan  for  2016-­‐17.    If  we  receive  no  response  from  you  within  ten  days  of  this  letter,  we  will  deem  
the  failure  to  respond  as  a  statement  that  you  approved  the  2016-­‐17  C4E  plan.  



Thank  you  for  your  attention  to  this  matter.    If  you  have  any  questions  or  would  like  to  
discuss  further,  please  feel  free  to  contact  me.  

Wendy  Lecker  
Senior  Attorney  
Education  Law  Center  
60  Park  Place  Suite  300  
Newark,  NJ  07102  
(203)  536-­‐7567  
cc:       Dr.  Betty  Rosa,  Chair  NYS  Board  of  Regents  
New  York  State  Board  of  Regents  
Carmen  Fariña,  Chancellor,  New  York  City  Department  of  Education  
Letitia  James,  Public  Advocate  for  the  City  of  New  York  
Leonie  Haimson,  Executive  Director,  Class  Size  Matters