Increasing Class Sizes Should Be the Third Rail of HoCo Politics

The County Executive’s 2019 budget for HCPSS is an adequate increase in funding but the unaddressed health-fund deficit will require the Superintendent to make budget cuts: increasing class sizes, laying-off teachers, and eliminating programs.

Small class sizes are the smartest, most efficient, and most affordable way to maintain academic excellence. Here’s my testimony in front of the County Council on the proposed HCPSS budget for 2019. I was the only County Council candidate who attended and testified at that hearing.

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I am here today to say as loudly and as clearly as possible that our public schools need to be fully funded. That means reducing class sizes, paying down deficits,building more capacity, and offering programs that help every child to succeed.

The current proposed budget from the County Executive is a 3.8% increase from last year. This is about 50 million less than what the Superintendent requested and is the amount that is needed to pay down the balance of the health-fund debt by 2018.

The county council does not have the authority to increase spending but my ask for the record is for a one-time allocation of $50 million to address the deficit. By eliminating this obligation, the school system would be fully funded. It is a big ask, but our students and teachers are worth it.

The Superintendent has proposed increasing class sizes by one, which will provide a savings of $5.4 million.  At my children’s school, increased class sizes means that kindergarten will swell from 25 to 26 children. That is a lot of little people to teach to read, write, and do math, as well as break up arguments, zip up coats, and give love and attention so that they grow and learn. The teacher, no matter how skilled, is not able to deliver high quality instruction and preparation. Crowd control replaces teaching. This is not just anecdote; data supports this perspective.

Additionally our school will not be able to hire a much-needed third night-time custodian due to staff reductions. Our two night-time janitors would be unable to complete all of their regular duties in addition to cleaning after special events. This means that the extra steps taken to ensure hygiene and cleanliness in the school is reduced. When the janitors can’t wipe down all the surfaces, the health of our children and staff suffers.

In the wake of the Parkland shooting, the Superintendent held a town hall meeting in which he outlined steps to ensure the safety of the children. He identified important emergency preparedness and crowd management issues, but he did not mention our most important tool: teachers. Small class sizes allow for teachers to engage with ALL students, including those who are isolated, ostracized, and potentially violent. If the county is committed to school safety, then small class sizes should be a budget priority every year.

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