Message to the members of the Red Clay Education Association

I sent the below email to the members of my teachers’ union. Considering the greater public interest of this issue, I thought it would make for an appropriate post here.

______________________________________

RCEA Members:

We are nearly a quarter of the way through the school year. I’ve had a great opportunity to speak with many of you across grades and schools and classifications. I’ve heard about many of the awesome successes and even some of the daily challenges that face you and your students. One of those challenges is class sizes.

Let me step back a bit and first offer a sincere thanks to a group of teachers who came out to the October School Board meeting at Brandywine Springs last week. I counted a little over a dozen RCEA Members who showed up – one of the largest RCEA presences at a Board meeting in my memory. What made it all the better is that some of the members got up and spoke before the body, engaging in the process to be both seen and heard. Again, a thank you to those members who came out.

I’m hoping you’ll consider coming to the next Board meeting. The next meeting is Wednesday, November 13, 7:00 pm at Brandywine Springs. HOWEVER, there is a SPECIAL PUBLIC HEARING on the topic of the CLASS SIZE WAIVER at 6:30pm. On that waiver issue…

I’ve heard from many of you. More so at the elementary level than the secondary level, although class sizes seem to be a recurring issue across grade levels. First, some background:

· Chapter 17, Title 14, Section 1705 of state code says that ALL K-3 classrooms must have no more than 22 students in their class size. This is state law.
· However, the state law has an interesting mechanism in it. It allows local school boards to issue a waiver to that requirement, in essence making the entire law TOOTHLESS. Why draft and pass a bill stating a class size maximum for K-3 if you can make it so easy for the local school board to issue a waiver?
· Every year, the Red Clay School Board discusses the class size waiver at its November meeting. Every year the class size waiver passes and some of our K-3 classrooms see their sizes creep above 22 students.

So that’s a bit of background. This is, honestly, one of the most challenging discussions our District has every year. On the one hand, as professionals we realize that class sizes must be reduced in all of our schools – even more so at our high-poverty schools whose number of high-needs students far outpace the resources available. On the other hand, all school districts MUST make decisions that are financially sound. If the Red Clay School Board were to not pass the waiver, then by law they’d have to reach into local funds to pay for those positions – 100% from local funds. To do this would send the District on an absolute path to bankruptcy.

This truly is the case of a rock and a hard place. And this is why I need you. I have spoken at the last few Board meetings about the need for a truly grassroots effort to begin to discuss the issue of class sizes, unit counts, and funding formulas at the State level. This cannot be solved at the District level. Here’s what I need from you:

· Come to the November 13, 2013 School Board meeting at 6:30pm at Brandywine Springs. Wear RED if you can. I plan on speaking on behalf of the teachers of RCEA who have aired their concerns with me about class sizes and the need to revise – at the State level – our education funding formulas.
· This is most important: If you live in Delaware, then contact your State Senator and State Representative.Email. Mail. Phone. ANY WAY YOU CAN. Don’t know your legislator? Click here and in 30 seconds you’ll know both. Heck, even if you don’t live in Delaware, click over to that site, look at the map, and pick a legislator that represents Red Clay’s geographic region. Let them know you’re a teacher working in their district and you want the state to start looking into class sizes and funding formulas.
· Be an Advocate: I mentioned this in my speech at District Day. If someone is discussing education and you HEAR something you know isn’t true or needs clarifying, then speak up. Get your family and friends engaged on these issues. We need change. 1200 members of RCEA can do some major PR out there with the general public. We are our profession and we need to OWN it.

I know our lives are beyond busy with the commitments that extend well outside of the school day, but I do hope you’ll consider participating in some of the ACTIONS above. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. We are a large body with an assumed amount of power based on our numbers alone. It’s time to start flexing that power.

All the best to you and please stay in touch,

Mike

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7 comments on “Message to the members of the Red Clay Education Association

  1. John Young says:

    K-3 sir!

  2. John Young says:

    § 1705. Determination of amount of appropriation.

    (a) The funds appropriated to each school district for salaries included in Division I shall be determined in accordance with all applicable state-supported salary schedules. No state funds from Division I shall be appropriated to any school district to provide salaries for more teachers than shall actually be employed in such school district.

    (b) Any school district may employ additional teachers out of state funds appropriated in Division II or Division III as provided in § 1304 of this title.

    47 Del. Laws, c. 364, § 2A; 14 Del. C. 1953, § 1705; 56 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 21; 72 Del. Laws, c. 294, § 46; 77 Del. Laws, c. 197, § 4.;

    § 1705A. Maximum student-instructor ratio requirements.

    (a) The ratio of students to instructors in any class in kindergarten or grades 1-3 in a Delaware public school shall not exceed 22 students as of the last school day of October. In calculating such ratio, a classroom instructional aide shall count as equal to half a teacher. This subsection shall only apply to a class within which students are instructed in the core academic subjects of English/Language Arts, mathematics, science and social studies.

    (b) The Department of Education shall provide technical assistance to any school district seeking assistance in allocating its Division I, Division III, Comprehensive Discipline Program, and local operating funding in such a manner as to accomplish class sizes equal to or lower than those required by this section.

    (c) A local school board may waive subsection (a) of this section after voting to waive such subsection at a public meeting noticed for that purpose. Any local school board vote on such a waiver shall occur on or before December 1 of each year. Notice for such a meeting shall be placed in the local newspaper for 2 consecutive weeks before the meeting and shall be posted on the door of any school affected for the same time period, and a copy shall be sent to the principal, teacher association building representative and Parent Teacher Organization/Parent Teacher Association parent leader of any affected school. The notice shall include the procedures for such persons to provide oral or written comments on the proposed waiver to the school board. Notice of any approved waiver shall be sent to the same persons.

    (d) The State Auditor shall, in cooperation with the Department of Education, monitor compliance with this section in the audits of the boards of education of the schools district conducted pursuant to § 1504 of this title.

  3. Shit! And to think I checked over this three times AND I know full well it’s K-3. Ugh. Thank you.

  4. Eve Buckley says:

    Great post, Mike. Thanks. I’m working with a number of CSD parents to organize around this issue as well. It’s a huge problem (both the waiver and class sizes above grade 3). Cross-district pressure on legislators would really help.

    As far as things to “learn” from DE’s charter schls experiment (HB 147), let’s learn that ALL students and teachers deserve class size caps that are age-and ability-appropriate, e.g. no more than 27 students in a grade 4 classroom (and that’s before taking more highly challenged student populations into account–that’s the MAX). That shouldn’t be a lottery-dependent privilege, for heaven’s sake. It should be every Delaware child’s legal entitlement.

  5. fsjenner says:

    Do you have class size numbers for all classes for all elementary grade levels? They should be able to provide this data to you. F

    Sent from my iPad

  6. Jack says:

    Class sizes for all classes in 9-12 may reveal smaller classes in 9-12 than K-3.

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