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.
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,