The AJC is reporting that the state school board waived class size requirements yet again, expecting that next school year may be the worst yet for financially strapped local systems.
A combination of state cuts, $1 billion this year, and plummeting property taxes, ongoing fallout from the housing collapse, will add to the financial stresses facing systems next year.
According to the AJC: This is an excerpt. Please read entire story.
On Thursday, the state school board unanimously approved extending the waiver for larger classes through the next school year. For students and parents, this could mean more students in some classrooms and fewer teachers.
Maximum class size requirements vary. For instance, state law says a regular kindergarten class should have no more than 18 students, while a fine arts or foreign language class in grades 6-8 can have 33 students. In addition to the state waiver, school systems also have permission from lawmakers to establish class size averages, meaning they can take an English class with 30 students and one with 10 for an average class size of 20.
“They don’t want to do this. They don’t have a choice,” said Garry McGiboney, associate state school superintendent for policy and charter schools. “For some systems, their solvency is going to depend on things like this.”
Cobb County is adding two students per classroom at all grade levels, a move that will allow the school system to cut 250 teaching jobs. Studies and common sense suggest that classrooms with fewer students are better learning environments, said Cobb school district spokesman Jay Dillon.
“Unfortunately, the economic reality is that we are facing a $62 million deficit, and 90 percent of our operating budget is committed to payroll,” Dillon said.
The state has been giving school systems blanket waivers from mandatory class sizes since the 2009-2010 school year. Other requirements have been relaxed. Most notably, school systems have been allowed to abandon the traditional 180-day calendar, which two-thirds have done to save money, even though they’re required to maintain the same hours of instruction.
Metro area districts have seen property values and taxes drop significantly and have been told they’re not yet at the bottom. McGiboney said staff at the state Department of Education has been concerned about the potential impact on student achievement, but doesn’t have enough data yet to draw any firm conclusions.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog