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NEW YORK (PIX11) — New York City’s schools chancellor criticized a state bill to cut down class sizes as a plan that prioritizes the number of students in classrooms over other, critical issues. 

This bill would lower class sizes to 20 students in the younger grades and 25 for most high school subjects. Money to fund the plan would have to be taken from school safety programs, dyslexia screenings, social workers, school nurses, summer programming, supports for special student populations and the expansion of community schools, Department of Education head David Banks said Wednesday.

“Make no mistake, it will lead to large cuts in these critical programs,” he said. “This should not be a choice that school leaders have to make.”

With enrollment falling, many K-8 classes in New York City have an average number of 20-25 students, according to DOE data. Most general education classes at city high schools have an average of 21-29 students.

If the state proposal goes through, it would cost $500 million a year for kindergarten through fifth grade classes alone, city education officials said. There could also be billions in capital costs for building additional schools and classroom seats.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said the state class-size reduction plan was based on federal and state funds. He noted it was phased in to prevent budget shocks.

He applauded the class-size bill, introduced by State. Sen John Liu. Mulgrew pointed to data showing most districts in New York have smaller class sizes than those in the five boroughs. 

“The passage and enactment of this legislation — which prioritizes the city’s poorest schools, phases in over five years, and provides exemptions when necessary for overcrowded buildings — would be a landmark achievement for this city’s children by the political leadership of our city and state,” Mulgrew said. 

The UFT head had also supported a 2021 effort in the New York City Council to cut down class sizes. That proposal would have required the city purchase or lease new educational space along with hiring about 13,000 new teachers.