Craig’s Corner – 2.14.12
Posted: Thursday, February 16, 2012 4:09 pm
By: Craig Fitzhugh, House Minority Leader
A proposal from Gov. Bill Haslam would permit public school districts in Tennessee to create classes with larger numbers of children and, as a result, would decrease the individual attention our children receive from their teachers. The plan could also result in thousands of teacher layoffs, unbearable financial burdens on local governments and a reversal of the progress we have made in our schools.
I support the governor’s efforts to enact meaningful reform and provide the education our children deserve. That’s why we passed Tennessee’s Race to the Top legislation two years ago, enabling our public schools to measure performance, better train teachers and support innovative ideas.
But the governor has made a mistake by pushing this year to allow larger class sizes in elementary and middle schools, a move that members of his own party have opposed. Removing the state’s average class-size requirement means schools would put more students in every classroom, while laying off thousands of teachers at a time when we need them the most.
Currently, the state-mandated average class size for grades K-3 and grades 7-8 is 20 students, with the maximum number of students allowed in any class set at 25.
Some classrooms may have the maximum number of students, but any school’s average class size must be at or below 20 students. (In grades 4-6, the average class size is set at 25 students and the maximum number of students allowed in any class is 30.)
Right now, the state bases its teacher funding on the average class size, funding one teacher’s position for every 20 students in grades K-3 and 7-8. Under the administration’s proposal, however, funding would be based on the maximum class size, meaning one teaching position would be funded for every 25 students in those grades.
In Weakley County, the state currently pays for 140 teachers in grades K-8. Under the new proposal, only 115 teachers would be funded, leaving 25 jobs to be funded completely by the local school district. Those positions would be in addition to 29 teachers whose salaries are already paid solely with Weakley County tax dollars.
Weakley County officials would have to do one of two things to meet their budget: seek an increase in taxes or lay off teachers. The same is true for other school systems across Tennessee, as nearly 5,300 teaching jobs would be cut from state education dollars.
Our local governments should not be put in the position of having to choose between taking money from our families or teachers from our children.
Gov. Haslam and I are both dedicated to a quality public education for every child. Late last week, the Governor indicated he was “rethinking” this proposal; I hope that he is and that we can work toward a better solution. Raising class size and local tax burdens is not the right fix for anyone.
As always, if you have questions about this new proposal or would like to hear more about another issue, please contact my office at (615) 741-2134 or email email@example.com.
Have a great week!