Ga. asks for class-size waivers for all districts

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ATLANTA - Georgia schools Superintendent Kathy Cox is asking that all the state's 180 school districts be allowed to increase the number of children in each classroom because of budget woes.

Cox sent a letter to the state Board of Education on Wednesday requesting that the state grant waivers of class size rules for the 2009-10 school year. Cox told the state school board that expanding class sizes in many districts could save $200 million and help avoid layoffs.

"School districts are struggling, and the biggest cost is personnel," Cox said during a committee meeting. "Maybe this means that paraprofessionals will stay on the payroll."

Under the plan, most class maximums would grow by two students, which would reduce the number of new teachers that districts would have to hire. Kindergarten would increase to 20; grades 1-3 would hit 23 and grades 4-8 would be 30. The enrollment would not increase in special education, English as a second language, fine arts and foreign language classrooms.

The waiver would only be effective statewide for one year. After that, districts would revert to the usual system of applying individually for class-size waivers.

The board is expected to vote on the measure during its monthly meeting Thursday.

Though Ms. Cox's request will bring relief next school year, Richmond County is looking for more immediate help.


Today the county school board is expected to approve a request for waivers for 15 classrooms effective this school year.


Even before the economic downturn, Richmond County struggled to meet the state's class-size requirements. Last year, the county was approved for about 60 waivers.


"We will continue to work on providing the best quality educational program with the resources made available," Richmond County Superintendent Dana Bedden wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.


Columbia County schools Superintendent Charles Nagle said his system must increase class sizes to operate within its budget.


"Due to the fact that 90 percent of our budget goes to salaries, the only way we're going to be able to tighten our budget is to make the changes within personnel," he said.


Mr. Nagle said he hopes to reduce the system's payroll through attrition and the elimination of some teaching positions.

Cox stressed that the statewide waiver does not mean districts are required to expand their class size, but instead gives systems flexibility to deal with falling property tax collections and state funding.

Board members expressed concern that even modest class size increases will hurt how much one-on-one time teachers can spend with children, which can impair how much they learn.

"No one on this board wants to do this," said board member Mary Sue Murray. "But times are tough, and I think we're really going to have to go this way."

State lawmakers passed a law with class-size limits in 2006 to help improve students' performance on standardized tests and increase high school graduation rates. Experts have long agreed that small classes are better learning environments, particularly in the elementary school grades.

It's important that the state not extend the inflated limits beyond one year, Georgia Association of Educators President Jeff Hubbard said.

"We're disappointed it's come to this," said Hubbard.

The 2006 law limits class sizes in core classes - math, science, social studies and language arts - from kindergarten through middle school. Georgia lawmakers tried but failed to pass similar ceilings for high school classes in 2007.

Staff writers Greg Gelpi and Donnie Fetter contributed to this story.

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patriciathomas
44
Points
patriciathomas 01/08/09 - 06:26 am
0
0
I went through school when

I went through school when the average class size was 30 students. Discipline was still encouraged in school at this time and students that acted as teacher's aides received special consideration.

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 01/08/09 - 08:32 am
0
0
So sorry PT, those days are
Unpublished

So sorry PT, those days are long gone. You probably went to school in a time and place when students actually cared about learning, and perhaps your parents were involved in your education. Today, public schools are dumping grounds and many kids just flat out do not care whether they learn anything or not. Everyone, EVERYONE, will suffer the consequences, either directly or indirectly, of increasing class sizes.

db16
95
Points
db16 01/08/09 - 09:05 am
0
0
cracker...well said. I

cracker...well said. I wonder if Cox has also asked the Department of Education to waive all of the NCLB requirements and AYP requirements? Even better, if she is going to save money on NEW TEACHER salaries, will she increase the salaries of the current teachers who will now be teaching more children in their classes and have added pressures placed on them? Surely a small increase in teacher salaries will not be too much to ask for?

christian134
2
Points
christian134 01/08/09 - 09:31 am
0
0
I would definitely not start

I would definitely not start with the teachers reduction of salaries or personnel...Begin with the top salaried person which would be the Superintendent then progress right down the line to the non-essential personnel in the county offices'...Ever walked into the Richmond County School Offices downtown? Just walk in and see the over abundant personnel sitting around for hours on end doing nothing absolutely nothing...Interesting to say the least...Leave the teachers as well as paraprofessionals alone...They actually, for the most part, work very hard...

db16
95
Points
db16 01/08/09 - 09:36 am
0
0
Christian...you are a genius!

Christian...you are a genius! It should work from the top down!
Finally, someone who understands!! Reducing from the bottom up would be HORRIFIC and extremely counter productive!

lifelongresidient
1
Points
lifelongresidient 01/08/09 - 10:29 am
0
0
ms. cox and all school

ms. cox and all school administrators would not need waivers if they would enforce discipline and get rid of all students who don't want to learn, disrupting the learning process and are troublemakers. this would cut down on the student/teacher ratio in addition to reducing costs. oh yeah i forgot if you get rid of the troublemakers and those who don't want to learn you will have to close 50% or more of the schools in the county and that will eliminate at least half of the school board members, and the remaining board members will not have as much money to waste on useless and ineffective programs that DON'T WORK!!!!!

db16
95
Points
db16 01/08/09 - 10:31 am
0
0
but you also need to

but you also need to understand that reducing your student numbers (aka your ADA) will reduce your gov't funding. Can't do that.

Chuchi
2
Points
Chuchi 01/08/09 - 10:31 am
0
0
Education and discipline

Education and discipline start in the home. Class sizes wouldn't matter nearly as much if all parents would take an active role in their kids' education and conduct in school. When parents don't make excuses for their kids' bad behavior and when they don't blame the teacher when their child fails, the kids succeed in school. The #1 determining factor in a child's educational success or failure is the attitude of the parents.

toppergem
126
Points
toppergem 01/08/09 - 10:32 am
0
0
The Board should cut whatever

The Board should cut whatever has the least negative impact on the students and the classroom... Teachers and students should be off limits. So look elsewhere to bring to find ways to cut the budget.

bone
24
Points
bone 01/08/09 - 12:48 pm
0
0
fine arts classes don't have

fine arts classes don't have class limits in general, so this article is misleading. as for core teachers in middle school, it is crazy to expect them to successfully accomodate individual students when their numbers could be as high as 180. chuchi, class sizes DO matter: when you and PT went to school, teachers probably weren't necessarily required to provide individualized instruction - and if they were, your classes were probably ability-grouped anyway. now, it is illegal to group in middle school by ability and, with special education mainstreaming, classes are full of diverse learners, many of whom require substantial modification to be successful (modifications which are required by law if the student meets certain criteria).

db16
95
Points
db16 01/08/09 - 01:37 pm
0
0
bone...words well spoken.

bone...words well spoken. 99% accurate...the 1% was the fine arts...there are limitations on class size, however, those classes are rarely impacted and not factored into AYP statistics like 'core' classes are.

sophiecat1
0
Points
sophiecat1 01/08/09 - 01:45 pm
0
0
If the state really wants to

If the state really wants to save money, then they should cut the salaries of Exploratory(elective) classes in middle school. These teachers teach fewer hours in the day, are not required to attend conferences, and do not attend training. Yet, they get paid the same as academic teachers. Cutting their pay would save millions.

db16
95
Points
db16 01/08/09 - 01:52 pm
0
0
Sophiecat...words of someone

Sophiecat...words of someone who has ZERO clue! So sorry...you must have been the last one picked in PE Classes, you must have been the musically/chorally challenged, you must be the one who went home everyday and played video games of hopped on MYspace as soon as you got off the bus. Exploratory classes are the glue that holds the Academic world together...they have been in schools since Day 1...and they aren't going anywhere. The Paraprofessionals, Auxillary staff, Graduation Coaches, etc are the ones who are going. And your comment about the Exploratory teachers teaching less...110% inaccurate! So sorry your felt like you knew something...but I will send you a DOLLAR...you can GO BUY A CLUE!

ya-ya
83
Points
ya-ya 01/08/09 - 04:21 pm
0
0
SO let me get this

SO let me get this right....money is more important than the already impossible one-on-one time that our children deserve and need? With the CRCT, ITBS, and other Benchmarking tests our kids are required to pass (or get kept back) how are they to keep up or even grasp what the teacher is teaching them if they can't get a question in because there are 30 or more kids in the classroom that need help too? Last night my daughter brought a math assignment home on diameter, circumference and pi and she hadn't even been taught this stuff yet! It has been many years since I even held a protractor so we were learning together (OMG) and it was interesting :) If kids don't get it in the classroom they tend to act up out of frustration, and as one blogger stated, we should just get rid of the trouble! Give me a break!

db16
95
Points
db16 01/08/09 - 04:54 pm
0
0
ya-ya...amen! you are right

ya-ya...amen! you are right on the mark! Top to bottom...not bottom to top!

redapples
765
Points
redapples 01/08/09 - 07:14 pm
0
0
Increasing class sizes is a

Increasing class sizes is a Bozo idea!! I am not a fan of teacher unions for various reasons, but it's decisions like this where I could see a benefit.

bone
24
Points
bone 01/08/09 - 07:18 pm
0
0
you're correct on the number

you're correct on the number of hours spent teaching per day: as an exploratory teacher, i don't teach the same number of hours as core teachers. i have, however, taught as many as 290 students during a school day as a result of no class size limitations, so i think there is a wash as far as the hours / classes / students taught goes. but maybe you have a point: i'll gladly teach the same number of hours as core teachers if the state of GA would undo the ridiculous number of minutes per week required in core subjects. just my opinion, though, and i am biased towards my branch of instruction. also, db16, fine arts are impacted because (at least in columbia co) funding for fine arts is taking a hit and, as a result, fewer teachers are teaching the same (or more) classes and students.

corgimom
53597
Points
corgimom 01/08/09 - 08:55 pm
0
0
I skipped two grades and have

I skipped two grades and have a high IQ. In 8th grade my school was on double session. In my Algebra class there were 57 students and we met in the auditorium. It was horrible. I nearly failed the class. The next year I was the top algebra student in my high school. Class size DOES matter.

SandyK2005
1
Points
SandyK2005 01/09/09 - 04:11 am
0
0
"Surely a small increase in

"Surely a small increase in teacher salaries will not be too much to ask for?" --- Let's see, Abraham Lincoln learned his letters where? And what was the pay for his teacher? Or, let's be a tad more modern, what was the pay scale of Obama's teachers? It's not the pay that makes good teachers, it's the pay that's bankrupting our schools (it's a different disease of welfare). We got to this mess because the schools failed to do it's job. They punish kids to learn. They told them they wouldn't amount to anything. They even denied them a diploma over things like pregnancy or less. I'd rather be in a one room school, that was made by the residents, and taught by a school marm, than the mess that's called our educational system today. It's too bureaucratic; too socialistic; too dogmatic in their pursuit of academics, that they even tried to kill technical education. No creativity, rote, and conformity, all in a day where the exact opposite is needed to have the superpower edge. When all those folks with degrees are working for China, perhaps they'll learn THEN what went wrong.

SandyK2005
1
Points
SandyK2005 01/09/09 - 04:21 am
0
0
"you're correct on the number

"you're correct on the number of hours spent teaching per day: as an exploratory teacher, i don't teach the same number of hours as core teachers. i have" ---- Case in point. Although I'm no grammar queen, but God have mercy, this is someone claiming to be a teacher, who never knew a capital letter was for. Only thing missing is that infamous "u" for you.

bone
24
Points
bone 01/09/09 - 05:53 am
0
0
of course i've heard of

of course i've heard of capital letters, sandy; i'm an e.e. cummings fan, so that's my way of paying homage to a master. speaking of teaching creativity, fine arts (exploratory) seem to make some attempt to avoid the dogmatic exercises which you malign repeatedly, sandy. also, do you really buy into the hype that lincoln was a backwater hillbilly when the reality is that his father was a powerful kentucky landowner? the yarns about lincoln are just too funny, especially when kooks don't bother to research any of the claims...sorry, Kooks (for sandy). you are definitely not a grammar queen: try looking up "comma splice" in your 6th grade language arts textbook and repair your 3:11a.m post. does this help verify my "claim" of being a teacher?

FallingLeaves
31
Points
FallingLeaves 01/29/09 - 01:35 am
0
0
Of course teachers are going

Of course teachers are going to say teachers should be off limits. Not saying they shouldn't be, but just saying...

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