Reducing class sizes – at least in the first few years of school – benefits the learning environment, allowing teachers to devote more time and energy to the intellectual growth of children under their care. Little doubt exists as to that reality—the point of contention is how to responsibly and effectively meet the objective of smaller class sizes.
Yesterday, KOMO News Radio reported on a story that shed light on how hasty steps taken toward reducing class sizes may inadvertently place undue burdens on schools. Attempting to meet the Legislature’s recent mandate to reduce class sizes, Evergreen Height Elementary in Auburn has been forced to hold some classes in the library, the gym and a new portable. The school gym actually accommodates two classes. Regular gym classes can no longer be held inside. Understandably, parents of children who have been designated to these makeshift classes are worried.
As the Washington Policy Center points out, the passage of Initiative 1351 (the so-called smaller class size initiative) would assuredly force more schools to create makeshift classes in order to meet new standards. I-1351 seeks to “reduce class sizes to even lower levels than sought by the McCleary Court.” Further, “official fiscal note for this initiative says no one knows whether school districts have the space to meet the initiative’s requirements.”
The Washington Policy Center quotes Brian Fox of the Puyallup School District:
“I-1351 sounds fabulous…small class sizes sounds great, but when it comes to actually implementing what is required in that initiative, it will simply be impossible in many of our schools statewide to provide the kind of teaching space that is envisioned in that initiative.”
Let’s be clear: I-1351 promises to place an inordinate and unknown amount of pressure on schools to comply with new class size standards. The initiative—championed under the guise of smaller class sizes—benefits the Washington Education Association (WEA) by increasing due payments and allowing for control over how the Legislature meets the McCleary decision. I-1351 is about the WEA, it’s not about schools and it’s not about children.