We all knew this was coming, but the numbers are more than I expected.
Thousands of Texas public schoolchildren are in more crowded classes this year as districts claim financial hardship following state budget cuts.
The number of elementary school classrooms exceeding the state’s class size cap has more than doubled since last year.
Districts faced unprecedented budget cuts this year, with state lawmakers allocating $2 billion less than schools historically would have received.
The number of waivers sought by Houston-area districts has grown dramatically.
For example, the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District reports that it has exceeded the size limit this fall in 15 percent of its elementary classes. But it has capped the classes at 25 students, said Cy-Fair ISD’s general counsel, Marney Collins Sims. The district is requesting 294 waivers, up from nine last year.
Fort Bend ISD’s waivers skyrocketed to 238, with classes generally at 24 students. Last year the district had 22 waivers.
“Due to the reduction by the state in our budget, we could not hire teachers to the same degree we did last year,” said Fort Bend ISD Assistant Superintendent Marc Smith.
Houston ISD, the largest district in the state, typically has the most waivers, and the number jumped to 1,048 classrooms exceeding the cap this fall – up from 693 last year. Roughly a quarter of the district’s elementary classes top the limit this year.
Expect even more next year, when deeper cuts kick in. If you think this was a poor decision by the Legislature, you’d better be prepared to express that disapproval at the ballot box.
Rob Eissler, who chairs the House Public Education Committee, said he suspects that most of the classes are increasing by only one or two students, so he’s not worried.
“The key is, let’s see what the results are,” Eissler said, noting that he wants to see student test data after this year.
Let’s make a deal, shall we? I will agree to wait and see what the data says, as long as those who are responsible for these cuts agree to undo them if it turns out that the data says there was a negative effect. No excuses, no waffling, no finger-pointing, no scapegoating, no extensions. If scores go down, funding goes up, and if Dan Patrick’s property taxes have to go up to pay for it, then so be it. What do you say?