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Raising class sizes by two would save $187 million a year: report

A classroom with green walls and empty desks. cinderellasg/Flickr

A new report says raising class sizes by two students per class would save the city $187 million a year. (Via Flickr Creative Commons.) Raising class sizes by two students per room and making a slew of paid parent coordinators part-time employees are among a slate of options the Independent Budget Office is recommending to City Hall for how to plug the city’s projected $4 billion budget gap.

The IBO list, which went out in a report released this morning, includes 70 ways to cut costs or raise revenue and puts a dollar tag on each option. The city would save $187 million annually by reducing class sizes by two students on average, a change that would require the city to eliminate 2,100 teacher positions, according to the report. Moving parent coordinators who work at schools with fewer than 500 students to part-time status would save $14.9 million, the report says.

The report does not recommend following the options one way or another, instead laying out arguments for and against each one. Those in favor of increasing class sizes, the report says, would argue that research on the costs of marginally larger classes is inconclusive, while opponents would cite research on the benefits of lower class sizes in early grades and the potential risk of driving qualified teachers out of the system.

On the subject of parent coordinators, the position created by the Bloomberg administration that installs a paid parent leader on the staff of each school, the report points out that, on one hand, direct services to students should be prioritized before the coordinators. On the other hand, the report declares that parental involvement has been shown to help students succeed academically.

Other options: The city could end public funding of private school bus routes, for a savings of $57 million; encourage teachers to serve jury duty during the summer, for a savings of $3 million; and a slew of ways to make pensions and employee benefits less expensive. For instance, the report suggests a merger between pension systems (something unions have opposed in the past), an increase in the number of years required to work for the city before becoming eligible for a pension, no more using overtime pay to bulk up a pension, and an end to the city’s policy of demanding zero premium from employees on health insurance.

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