MANHATTAN — When Mayor Bill de Blasio was on the campaign trail, he talked about the importance of reducing schools' class sizes.
Although he convened an advisory group last year to look at how the city calculates school overcrowding, when the group actually came up with suggestions, the city opted to take a pass on one of the key recommendations: lowering the target class size.
"It is deeply distressing," said Leonie Haimson, executive director of the advocacy group Class Size Matters, noting that class size reduction has been the top priority of parents every year since 2007, according to the Department of Education's own surveys.
It's especially upsetting as class sizes have been steadily on the rise, she said.
The city charged the advisory group with reviewing the DOE's formulas for its "Blue Book" — a nearly 500-page data-packed document used to calculate how much space a school has and needs and determine where new schools should be built or where co-locations can happen.
The book's numbers had long been criticized for inaccuracies.
The DOE announced Tuesday it would adopt several of the advisory group's recommendations, like designating private counseling space for elementary and middle schools and including the population of special needs students when calculating how much space schools require.
But the city said it would not adopt a recommendation for lowering the target class size to the levels outlined in the city's Contracts for Excellence law — even though that state law was passed in 2007 and De Blasio pledged to comply with these targets before becoming mayor.
That law calls for classes for kindergarten through third grade to be capped at 20, grades 4 – 8 to be capped at 23 and high school classes to have no more than 25 kids in a class.
"I don't see how the city can alleviate overcrowding if they don't take class sizes into account," Washington Heights mom Kari Steeves said "Overcrowding begins in the classroom.
"Cramming 25 physically active children into a single room doesn't just make life a little inconvenient, it compromises the safety and focus of everyone in the room," she added.
DOE spokesman Jason Fink said that schools would "continue to work toward this critical goal" of reducing class sizes.