So this happened:
Parents and educators have fought for years to keep class sizes small.
But as school populations grow, those efforts run into physical and financial barriers. Sometimes schools run out of space and face difficult decisions.
In most cases, there are two solutions: Build more classroom space and hire more teachers (which usually means raising taxes or moving money from other priorities) or approve a waiver allowing more students in classes than the law says is ideal.
In the past few years, most Delaware districts have asked their school boards to approve waivers – and boards have always agreed.
That changed last week when the Red Clay School Board rejected its district’s request, deadlocking in a 3-3 vote.
Many parents and teachers are cheering the decision, saying they’re tired of watching boards vote to allow bigger class sizes.
Color me surprised. And while I completely understand the difficulties districts face following this law, it is a law. An unfunded, feel good law, but a law nonetheless.
Red Clay’s Board is split:
“Let’s not keep doing this over and over again and giving ourselves a free pass,” said Adriana Bohm, a board member who voted against the waivers. “We need to prioritize this, because we know how important this is for our children”
“All of the board members and everybody in the administration agrees that small class sizes are important,” said board president Faith Newton, who voted to accept the waiver. “But the question is how we get there. How do we come up with the resources, and how do we strike a good balance with our other needs?”
I find myself agreeing with both statements. The law mandating class size is unfunded, basically telling districts they mustn’t exceed 22 students per class (K-3), but not offering funds to make this a reality. This law places districts in a difficult position. For while I believe they’d love to follow this law, there simply isn’t the money to make this a reality.
That said… I like what the RCCD board did. Kick that ball back to the legislature – most of which have no idea what they’re doing when it comes to education (and those that do, are big charter supporters). In fact… El Som wrote about my confrontation with Rep. Dennis E. Williams:
It’s one thing to vote for HB 165, the aforementioned charter schools bill. It’s another thing to have no idea what the bill did while voting for it. Our beloved Pandora cornered Rep. Williams at a recent Drinking Liberally, and asked him if he knew what the bill he voted for did. Multiple dissemblings (‘We have lots of bills go through, I don’t read every single one’) later, he admitted he had no clue what the bill did. There are bills, and there are bills. This was an important bill, and Williams’ futile attempt to BS his way through was seen by those present for what it was: BS. Which raises the question: What else is he BS’ing about? That conversation alone probably cost him a couple of spots on this list.
Frankly, it should have cost him more than a couple of spots on El Som’s list. Basically, the job of a legislator is to write bills and to read and vote on bills. Williams admission that he didn’t read a highly controversial, highly publicized bill is shocking. And he didn’t read it. He couldn’t name one (one!) thing in HB 165. NOT ONE. Very embarrassing, and if he doesn’t have time to read bills, he should resign.
But… back to the class size waiver. I’m anxious to see how this plays out. Perhaps it’s time for districts – who have been being hammered and the only ones receiving bad press every time they vote for a waiver – to kick this toothless, unfunded law back to the legislature, mainly because the legislature used the class size issue with all the feel good nonsense of a flag burning bill. The legislature owns this mess. Hopefully, Red Clay’s vote will make them step up to the plate… of course, they’d actually have to have read the law, which, given past history, might not have been the case. Just sayin’