Friday, October 1, 2010

SFGate: The tragic loss of reduced class size

This from SFGate:

My grandmother's favorite poem ends with the line,

"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been!' "

So much might have been so much better in California had Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and some feckless members of the Legislature not put their no-taxes pledge ahead of our children's destiny. With $17 billion in spending cuts in education over the past two years, many of the initiatives that were showing such promise are being axed by a penny-wise, pound-foolish set of policies.

In 1995, when I proposed cutting class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, then-Gov. Pete Wilson at first rejected the call, saying he had a better idea of what to do with the money, namely a tax cut. When the Legislature rejected that plan, Wilson graciously embraced reduced class size - phased in over six weeks!

Read the full story


  1. One thing that, locally, was missing from the class size discussion last spring is that, to keep elementary size so low, you are forcing middle school to be bigger.

    My kids' middle school classes went from 33 to 37, yet elementary stayed low. 1 kid increase in elementary classes across the district could have off set this tremendously.

    I plan to rally middle school families this year - we cannot quietly let this continue to erode.

  2. Really misleading article.

    The legislature voted to change the penalty structure for CSR in order to allow more flexibility at the district level after the education cuts. You can find this penalty schedule at the CDE website. CSR received less cuts than many other programs.

    The district has increased class sizes because it has become cost effective with the more forgiving penalty structure. For example, if they can pay a 20% penalty instead of an 80% penalty on CSR it changes the whole cost structure and they can then cut back on staff where the really big savings are.

    Personally speaking, I'd rather they didn't raise class sizes, but savings have to be realized from somewhere until they figure out how to fund education more appropriately. I will add that as long as only about half of education dollars make it to the classroom, it is a hard sell to ask for more tax revenue in this economy.

    But the policies of the district have done more damage than those of the state. Mr. Garcia raised the K size from 20 to 22 in 09-10 in order to save 1 million. That was a foolish decision given the 113 million short fall for the subsequent 2 years. They managed to close the 113 million shortfall with less class size increase percentage-wise then was realized with only a 1 million savings the year before. This was really bad decision-making where small were savings taken off the backs of children in a big way and while 555 hired more staff costing millions.

    And while there are more important factors than class size I do believe it is one important factor in student success, assuming that the teacher is doing a good job.

  3. Don,

    Her point was to lament the loss of class size reduction without an examination of the facts on the ground. It is not very well taken in my opinion. It entirely dismisses the reality of a major fiscal crisis. As you pointed out, districts cannot seriously reduce costs without staff reductions. The loosening up of the penalties provides districts that discretion. This article was a cheap shot.

  4. "One thing that, locally, was missing from the class size discussion last spring is that, to keep elementary size so low, you are forcing middle school to be bigger."

    Class size reduction provides funding only for K-3. The middle school issue is entirely separate. Having an opinion is fine as long as you are informed.

  5. Down boy. Most parents don't know that class size reduction is a separate funding stream that has nothing to do with anything but K-3.