Dear Commons Community,
The Huffington Post has an article looking at the dire financial situation in public education. Thirty-four states have slashed their K-12 education budgets since 2008, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. When school budgets are cut, fewer teachers are hired , class size increases and other services curtailed. The US Education Department’s most recent data show that class sizes averaged 20 students in elementary schools and 23.4 in secondary schools in 2008, before the recession took its toll. National data are not available yet for the past three years.
The article opens with a story of Shania who attends P.S. 148 in Queens, New York. Shania had 31 classmates this past school year, compared to 20 the year before. “Mommy, I want to change,” Shania said a week into the school year, according to her mother, Laynory Loaiza. “There are too many kids in my class, and when I try to talk to the teacher, she doesn’t pay attention to me.” Shania liked her veteran teacher, Joan Barnett, but with 32 eight-year-olds to teach, Barnett said she simply didn’t have time to slow things down and repeat lessons on multiplication and division more than twice. Barnett also indicated that two years ago, she had 20 students. Last year, she had 21. This year, she had 32 — a 60 percent increase over two years.
“Next year, I might have 34 kids,” Barnett said. “We didn’t even have enough desks [this year].”
At the beginning of this school year, the United Federation of Teachers, released a study of 900 schools showing that 61 percent of middle schools and 59 percent of high schools increased the size of their classes. Add in cutbacks in school supply budgets and textbooks, the study found, and 91 percent of New York City’s schoolchildren felt the pain of belt-tightening.
Likewise, teachers in McAllen, Texas, reported having 50 students in their classes this year, and a Las Vegas kindergarten teacher had 41 kids. According to the National Education Association, there are as many school jobs now as there were in April 2005 — but 300,000 more students.
Making sure class sizes don’t explode nationwide would cost $10 billion annually, according to a March report from the Southern Regional Educational Board. Neither President Obama nor candidate Mitt Romney have been discussing education very much as part of their campaigning but the fact is that we are mortgaging both our children’s and our country’s future by allowing the budgets of our public education systems to wither.