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Sunday, February 03, 2013

"Just a Thought" Column continues to run in La Prensa, 2-3

Just a Thought: Effects of increased class size
By Steve Walker

The unintended consequences of the legislature’s crusade to extract deep cuts in the education budget in the last session are already having a major impact on Texas Public Schools this year and will continue onto next school year. In this session if they don’t restore billions of dollars to the districts, it will only get worse.

When you cut thousands of teachers to balance the state budget, it is a recipe for the inevitable explosion of huge class sizes that are exploding as we speak.

As a retired classroom teacher, I can assure you an adverse outcome on the quality of education of those students in those over-crowded classrooms.

In my last two years of a four year term as a Justice of the Peace dealing with truancy, disorderly students and dropouts in six school districts, I predicted my caseload would increase when the budget cuts materialized due to the vast overcrowding. The number of students cited for fighting, disrupting class and worse became a reality in my courtroom.

Common sense tells you that more students squeezed into a classroom only encourage more fights, disruptions, truancy and lack of learning.

Back in the 70s as a young teacher, it was not unusual for me to have 30-35 high school or middle school students. Over the years I taught both. I actually taught one Freshman English class of 42 students at Roosevelt High School.

Many of them were forced to sit on the floor, the heaters by the window, makeshift tables with folding chairs or they stood on occasion. If it wasn’t for the fire code I would have seen even more students in my classroom. When a student was absent, another took his seat.

The more students that were absent, the better chance the remaining students were able to sit in a desk! It was a great excuse for students to skip class. Do we really want to go back to those days?

That is a blueprint for disaster! As a certified Special Education teacher, I can also tell you that self-contained classrooms full of special needs students are already being mainstreamed en masse into the general population as a result of the laying off teachers and untrained teachers (lack of funding) will be dealing with those students as well.

In the long run it will cost the taxpayer more than the savings the legislature thinks they accomplished. Good intentions sometimes have adverse outcomes.

Let’s hope the current legislature will do due diligence and restore most of the funds they cut so test scores will improve and the next generation of students will have a chance for a better life.

As always, what I write is “Just a Thought.”

Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Justice of the Peace and Journalist. His column “Ask the Judge” column ran in La Prensa for the last two years.

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