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Eric Adams on teachers and education

New York City mayoral candidate Eric Adams greets supporters before the first in person televised debate on June 02, 2021 in New York City. Early voting in the city began Saturday for the Democratic primary the will take place on June 22. (Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

NYC Mayoral Candidate Eric Adams Rebuked for 'Dangerous' 400-Students-to-1-Teacher Theory

"Defunding schools to the point that we have a 400:1 student-to-teacher ratio so we can bankroll another huge expansion in an already-multibillion dollar police budget," said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, "is how you build a school-to-prison pipeline."

Jon Queally

Eric Adams, among the leading Democratic candidates in New York City's heated mayoral contest, came under fire from outside progressives and fellow New York Democratic lawmakers Saturday for saying that a single public school teacher should be responsible for the education of between 300 to 400 students at one time.

"Our kids are not machines. They need attention and care. That can't happen through a screen." —Rep. Jamaal Bowman

"By using the new technology of remote learning you don’t need school children to be in a school building with a number of teachers—it’s just the opposite," Adams said in an interview clip posted Friday afternoon that has since garnered more than one million views online.

"You could have one great teacher that's in one of our specialized high schools," he argued, "to teach 300-400 students who are struggling in math with the skillful way they are able to teach."


With early voting kicking off Saturday, and New York City instituting a ranked-choice voting (RCV) process in a mayoral race for the very first time, the comments by Adams—a former police officer currently the Borough President of Brooklyn and leading the race in recent polls—riled progressives, included notable members of New York's congressional delegation like Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

"This is dangerous," tweeted Bowman late Friday night alongside the clip. "For a year, our kids have endured the trauma of remote learning—without their peers, teachers, counselors or coaches. The learning loss, emotional & mental stress are well-documented. As is the depression.  Adams would make remote learning the status quo."

"How will a teacher answer questions from 400 kids?" he continued. "How will a teacher give individualized attention to a child who needs it?  Our kids are not machines. They need attention and care. That can't happen through a screen."

On Saturday, Ocasio-Cortez—who, like Bowman, has endorsed Maya Wiley in the race as a more progressive alternative to Adams—also jumped in to rebuke the comments.

According to Chalkbeat, which recently assessed all the top Democratic candidates on the ballot, Wiley and Adams offer a stark contrast when it comes to education policy, specifically on the questions of class size and in-person learning.

"Reducing class sizes is a priority in Wiley's plan to 'create a just and vibrant school system,'" the outlet reported earlier this week. Her plan would include spending $250 million—a mix of federal and state dollars—to hire 2,500 new teachers to achieve those smaller classes and to give students extra instructional and emotional support as the district emerges from the pandemic.

"Eric Adams has no idea what he is talking about. These thoughts are dangerous to the education of our children."

Adam's plan, on the other hand, would include an expanded, "long-term remote learning option, funded by levying a Data Tax on big tech companies that sell private data to advertisers and others.The Data Tax would help pay for a unit of remote learning experts who would oversee the program." The teachers union has come out strongly against Adams' in the race.

Adrienne Bell, executive director of the progressive advocacy group Brand New Congress and also a school teacher, weighed in as well.

"I teach," Bell said on Saturday. "Eric Adams has no idea what he is talking about. These thoughts are dangerous to the education of our children."

And Washington Post columnist and book author Helaine Olen was succinct in her denunciation. "This should be outright disqualifying," she said.

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