By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25
I appreciate all the responses to my recent blog on Dollars and Accountability
but let me add something for Daniel,Tom, Marie, and Anonymous who emphasized the need for smaller class sizes.
Several years ago when Rep. Kevin Garn and I co-chaired the Educational Strategic Planning Commission, we were told by education leaders that if we were to fund $30.0 M of on-going money into class size reduction that it would really impact the class sizes for K-3rd Grade. I remember being told that for that sum, they would guarantee that there would be no Kindergarten of more that 18 students and that would carry over into most grades up to 3rd. We worked hard that next session to secure that funding for such a worthy goal.
When I followed up in the fall, I was surprised to find no difference in class sizes. In fact, I remember one teacher almost calling me a liar for taking some credit for class size reduction when nothing had happened at her school. She surmised that the funding had not occurred.
To my chagrin, I heard comments like:
- "We don't have rooms at our schools to put the extra classes."
- "We don't have teachers to hire."
- "Teachers during the negotiations said that if we gave the extra money to them in the form of salary increases, they would take the extra students."
This has caused me to wonder if class size reduction is really a priority with the local districts or just a slogan to make the public clamor for more education funding.
We also must be careful that we don't unfairly penalize districts who have made tough decision to reduce class size by cutting money elsewhere (transportation, salaries, etc.). We need to encourage good proactive behavior.
Class size reduction will come up again this year. Those of you with expertise in this area - please help me with suggestions on how to make sure that any new funding really makes a difference and is not lost, as our efforts a few years ago seemed to be.