Elementary classes swelling beyond 221

We must not overlook the fact that many of the victims of the education budget cuts are kindergarteners and other grade school kids, more of whom are finding themselves in larger classes this year because of further erosion to the 221 studentteacher cap for grades K4.

I say “victims” because some kids will suffer academically in years to come because of the reduced individual attention they will get from teachers in the larger classes now. The 221 standard has been law since 1984 because it has worked to improve the educational climate for Texas’ youngest students and their overall classroom performance.

A number of detractors – including romance novelistturnedstate Comptroller Susan Combs and the Legislature’s alleged educational “leadership” – insist there is nothing “magical” about 221. But they are more interested in squeezing the public schools than improving quality. A number of academic studies clearly have shown that the smaller the class, the better the educational outcomes for students on such indicators as test scores and college enrollment.

Sure. A limit of 15 kids per elementary class would be great. But 221 certainly is better than 24 or 26 or more, and this where a large number of K4 classes apparently are headed this year.

It is true that the Legislature did not technically raise the 221 cap during the recent, budgetslashing session. But lawmakers did encourage school districts to apply for more waivers from the cap by pleading financial hardship, which, of course, the Legislature created.

Districts have been seeking and getting waivers from 221 for years, but this year may very well see a record number. We will know within a few weeks. Oct. 3 is the deadline for districts to file waiver requests with the Texas Education Agency.

Only this morning, I saw two newspaper articles on pending waivers. Tyler ISD is planning on a 241 cap in elementary classes, at a cost of 38 teaching positions, according to the Tyler Morning Telegraph. And, Victoria ISD will seek waivers for 43 elementary classes, the Victoria Advocate reported.

As I noted yesterday, Spring Branch ISD is at 241 and CyFair ISD is at 251. Both are in the Houston area.

And, these are only a small sample.

In a bit of related news, you may have noticed the Texas Workforce Commission’s announcement today that Texas’ unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent in August, thanks to a loss of 11,500 jobs in local government, including schools.

I wonder how many of those were K4 teachers.


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