I received an e-mail from a parent of a first-year teacher that I thought I would share. I’ve eliminated any identifying information.
The teacher has been getting good evaluations thus far but the father has been surprised at the unnecessary challenges she has faced. First, she arrived at her new classroom to find no supplies. Nothing. So, she bought her own. Money eventually became available for supplies, but it was well into the school year.
But the father says supplies aren’t his first chief concern:
“It is the number of students that are in the classes. Our General Assembly had the brilliant idea to balance the budget on the backs of students and teachers. Not only did they not fund the entire school year, they removed the caps on class sizes. My child has between 50 to 60 students in each class.
It is impossible to teach in those circumstances, especially when you consider the k-5 ages. This is a microcosm of a tragic situation. Students are losing a year (at least) of their education foundation. How are we ever going to improve test scores, drop-out rates and the full gamut of the likely outcome of this is if we keep using our children this way?
The education budget should be like an entitlement or the defense department at the federal level: Fund them fully up front and then take care of everything else.
I think this dad — and the rest of us — will be even more shocked next year as Georgia confronts a continuing budget crisis and a new governor who made clear during the campaign that he did not intend to send schools more money. Nathan Deal said he can offer flexibility, but not cash.
The father asked what I thought about this. I think it is a tragedy that we have yet to realize that an early investment in education will deliver far greater returns to the state later.
And before anybody tells me that more money doesn’t matter, we are spending on average about $8,000 a year per student in Georgia. (The per pupil spending climbs in districts that have opted to maintain smaller school sizes than the state funds and in districts with large numbers of hard-to-educate children and special education students. And those districts pay for a lot of those added costs through their local tax contribution to their schools.)
When you drill down and look at the money being spent on the Georgia student who receives no special services of any kind, the spending probably drops closer to $7,000 or so a year per pupil.
The top privates in metro Atlanta charge between $14,000 and $18,000 a year. And their students are not special needs. The top private schools that specialize in students with special needs charge even more per year. (I just talked to someone whose high school student with special needs attends a residential program out of state that charges $450 per day. But the teen is showing remarkable progress. )
I don’t maintain that money is the only factor in getting results in education, but it is a factor. Yes, there are those teacher-proof kids ( a description once given to me by a Gwinnett principal) who can learn in most any circumstances, reduced or otherwise, but there aren’t too many of them. Most kids need good teachers, a supportive and safe learning environment and opportunities for enrichment across disciplines — and that all costs money.
But even in these hard economic times, I was surprised to read that any Georgia teacher has so many students in her classes. Fifty or 60 kids? Wow.
Anybody else seeing class sizes that high?
Anybody have any words of reassurance for this dad about his daughter’s chosen career besides run for your life?
Two pieces of info from readers:
Here is a link to DOE requested class size waivers. This report details the system requests for class size exemptions.
Also, class size collection is part of the “FTE” student enrollment collection. The data from the October collection should be ready in a few weeks. I will ask DOE to share with us