When I read the headline last week that Jessamine teachers were unhappy with class size, my curiosity was piqued. The article highlighted the difference between the opinion of the teachers and the district.
Superintendent Young said, “scaling back the number of teachers — and thus increasing class sizes — paved the way for the possibility of offering a raise.” She quoted research that shows our county has smaller classes and lower salaries than “regions that are about our size in central Kentucky that we would typically compete with.” If that factor is the only one impacting the decision, then her position is completely logical.
I respectfully disagree. A school system may be acceptable when it is reasonably comparable to others nearby with the same demographics. But it is great when it manages the funds it has in such a way that everyone in the system benefits — students, teachers, administrators and the community.
The best solution in this case would be the smallest class sizes possible while still paying our teachers more. All teachers are paid less than they are worth in comparison to other professionals with the same education. They are also paid less than they are worth in terms of the contribution they make to our community’s future.
I was very upset by what I perceived as the characterization that teachers were unhappy merely because of how hard they are working with large classes and fewer hours from assistants. But most teachers I know are in the profession not because it is an easy job, but because they love the children and are motivated to teach no matter how demanding it is. Higher pay will not ultimately make those teachers happy, even though they deserve it. Smaller classes will.
Surely the budget can be cut in other ways than increasing class size. The school budget includes not just salaries and numbers of teachers. Administration, support staff, maintenance workers — from the highest to the lowest paid, all must be at the optimum number of workers to achieve efficiency. When our school faced a financial crunch, all salaries and all positions were on the table for cuts, including my own.
Class size ultimately is not a teacher issue — it is a student issue. When classes are too large, the children ultimately pay the higher price. The ones who will suffer the most are those on both ends of the spectrum, those who are gifted and those who have learning differences.
The passionate mother in my office was convinced that the change to smaller classes saved her child’s life. If she was right, then bigger classes are the wrong move for Jessamine County.