As the number of New York City public school students continues to shrink for the 2023-2024 academic year — 767,500 are projected to be enrolled next fall, down from a high of 1.1 million in 2018 — the Department of Education is planning to spend a record $38,000 per child. While politicians and experts argue over where the money should be spent, we asked the biggest stakeholders, NYC families, for their suggestions. Here is a cross-section of responses:
Yana Semiglazova says, “They should share their money on ensuring that the teachers are properly trained on the new literacy and math curriculums to try to have kids meet appropriate grade levels.”
While a Manhattan parent, who opted to remain anonymous, added, “I wish the additional cost per child be spent on smaller class sizes, dyslexia screenings for all students, and Orton-Gillingham small group instruction for kids struggling to read.”
Alisa Barem, a parent to a child in Queens District 24, advised that the money would be “Best spent on field trips utilizing the amazing museums and institutions in NYC, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) lessons for everyone; not just those enrolled in the STEAM programs in public schools, extra teachers/assistants per class, extracurricular, free, quality afterschool programs in art, music, movement, and mindfulness.” To raise even more funds for such necessities, she suggested, “Selling off smart boards which were overbought at the tech boom for schools and are over-relied on for a quality education.”
It is also imperative to ensure that the funds are equally distributed across all levels of schools. Jeannine Jones, parent of a rising 6th grader, “found two areas lacking that could use more funding. My children attend a dual language Spanish/English elementary school and there were almost no options to continue dual language instruction in middle school. Most of the middle schools I saw either didn’t have a foreign language option or didn’t start the instruction until 7th grade. That’s a whole year of learning loss for dual language students.”
“The number of foreign languages taught in schools is shrinking,” parent Mahdieh Shemirani confirmed. “And now most public schools only offer Spanish and Mandarin. The reason they say is that it is very hard to find teachers for other languages. For New York City, if we take a poll there are many other foreign languages that are spoken on a day-to-day basis and it would be great if we can extend the options students can choose from.”
Shemirani added: “Better and more intelligent public transportation. Currently it is impossible to track a school bus, you would not know if the bus has already left or is delayed. I asked the school principal and they say it is because the amount of funding for school transportation by DOE is extremely low and they can hardly even find drivers. So maybe the best idea is to spend more money on making the school bus system a little more intelligent like Uber — tracking, knowing where exactly to stop, has the bus already passed or is it about to come in six minutes?”
Melissa, a mom with a daughter in Manhattan’s District 2 agreed that more enrichment in the arts and foreign language is vital, saying, “Learning a second language can broaden students’ cultural horizons and open doors to future career opportunities. Musical instruction has been linked to improved cognitive skills, such as memory and spatial awareness. As not all families can afford after school programming, having these enrichment programs during the school day can enhance students’ overall educational experiences and improve their quality of life.”
But her true heart’s desire would be “smaller class sizes and differentiation/individualized tutoring.”
She elaborates that, “Droves of families are moving to private schools for smaller class sizes that allow for more individualized attention and personalized instruction, which is beneficial for students who may require additional support or who thrive in a smaller learning environment. With the additional spending per student, I would like to see additional classes be added to drive smaller class sizes as this can lead to improved academic achievement, increased engagement, and better behavior in students. My daughter was selected for an advanced math group and in just a few weeks I have seen a significant change in her engagement and overall experience as before she complained of the math class being “boring”.
Danyela Souza Egorov, co-founder of Families for NYC and a candidate for the NY State Senate in District 27, echoed the sentiments of these parents, “I wish NY families and parents had direct access to the almost $40,000 per pupil and decide what is the best education for their kids. Imagine if every family could select the best school (DOE, charter, or private) only based on what is best for their kid — without artificial barriers imposed by our elected officials. I also hope one day New York families that decide to homeschool will have access to ESA accounts and use these resources in the best way to support their kids’ learning. New York is the no. 1 state in the country only on education funding — we have declining test scores and very little choice available to families.”
That’s the wish list for some NYC parents. What are yours? Please tell us in the comments!