Friday, September 15, 2006

Perdue Leaves Schools Begging

Perdue calls it the "Truth in Class Size Act." I think what we really need is a "Truth in Funding Act." That's right, legislators and others who govern should not be allowed to pass cute, sound-bite ready laws unless they have provided the money to pay for their campaign-friendly programs. According to today's Telegraph, at least five Georgia school systems have asked for relief from the new class size law, and it appears that Bibb and Peach are soon to follow. For a group of folks who claimed to be all about local control, the Perdue team seems bent on telling local school systems how to spend their money.

Tell me this: would you rather have your third grader in a class with 22 students and an excellent teacher or with 11 students in a "portable classroom" with a sub? That's not a hard question for most parents.

There are problems with the law, just as there are with most quick-fix solutions for complex problems. First, though politicians (Democrats and Republicans) don't want you to know this, there is no conclusive research that supports the idea that just by reducing class size, students will learn better. In fact, one of the keys to student achievement is having a highly qualified, experienced teacher in the classroom. Because of the shortage of teachers, with the new law, many times when a class divides because of reaching the arbitrary limit, the school is forced to put a part of the students with a less qualified teacher, or a substitute. Second, because of the devastating cuts to education funding and the increased unfunded mandates, districts are cash strapped and have difficulty with the inflexibility of the class size mandate.

What we really need is a substantial investment in teacher training, and incentives for teachers to come to certain districts. We need to recalculate the way we determine which systems are classified as "low wealth" and allow local districts some flexibility in implementation of mandates. Common sense has a place in education policy, and I for one do not want local board members to simply act as a rubber stamp for policies generated in Atlanta without much regard for the impact on rural Georgia.

As Lynn Farmer, Bibb School Board member, said, the sound-bite is great " until it's your child with two extra students in the classroom pulled out and put into a classroom with a substitute that doesn't have as much experience. I hope politicians begin to understand the reality of that."

Me, too.

1 comment:

Tina said...

I would like to see passing the state high school graduation tests as a requirement for serving in the Georgia General Assembly. I bet it would reduce that body by half! hee hee