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  • Sunday, February 21, 2010



    Metro VIEWS
    Giving voice to the Greater Orange Communities
    A community service of the
    Greater Orange Communities Organization

    an editorial comment by the Greater Orange Communities Organization

    Almost everyone agrees that the California State Budget Crisis is real. The community has watched Orange Unified be proactive in dealing with the fund shortage. That said, the recent comments by Orange Unified Trustee Mark Wayland demonstrated a disconnect on how the budget crisis is impacting OUSD classrooms.

    At the Thursday February 18th OUSD School Board meeting the OUSD Trustees voted 7-0 to apply for a waiver from the California Education Code penalty for going over district-wide class size formulas. By all accounts this was a precautionary measure to give OUSD the needed tools to address the continued unknowns in what has become the Sacramento Budget Shell Game. In covering the pending waiver vote, the Orange City News put questions to OUSD Trustee Mark Wayland and reported:

    Wayland said he didn’t believe a three-student increase in class size would be too detrimental. But he would rather have a smaller class size.
    “It’s a great environment, because it’s more personalized,” Wayland said. “But I remember when I was a kid and 30 kids in a classroom wasn’t a big deal.”

    Mr. Wayland is right, 30 kids in a classroom, while not ideal, wasn’t a big deal- but over 40 students in a classroom is a BIG deal. The days of 30 kids to a regular classroom are long gone in middle school and high school. You’d have thousands of teachers statewide signing up for a shot at a thirty student regular academic classroom.

    You see, the staffing formula in the Education Code is a “district-wide” formula not a classroom size limit. As an example, take the states 29-1 mandate for grades 4-8 that is outside the much touted (and thanks to the Budget Crisis-now almost extinct) Class Size Reduction program in the lower grades. While the state allows a 29-1 teacher to student ratio district-wide in grades 4-8, the devil-in-the-details here is that it is a district-wide mandate. What this means in practice is that because of various staffing accounting formulas, the OUSD Administration actually staffs middle schools at 38-1 student to teacher ratio . This Mr. Wayland creates regular academic classes at the middle schools of 40 and up. In addition, P.E. classes are sometimes exceeding 60-1 (which brings up another whole area of safety that we will not address here). The waiver could potentially create academic class sizes approaching 45 students. In doubt? It maybe time for you and the Trustees to visit the secondary classrooms.

    We have faith that if the waiver application is approved and used in OUSD it would be done in a worst-case scenario. Unfortunately we live in the Age of Worst Case Scenarios. We applaud OUSD Superintendent Dr. Dreier’s pro- active response in gathering all the tools needed to weather the crisis, but we remind her and the Trustees that other tools now available have not been fully utilized. While three small schools have been consolidated, the original OUSD staff proposal was for four. Given the recent Davis Demographics build-out report of an excess of 4,000 elementary seats occurring at build-out, common sense dictates that further small school consolidation must occur at the elementary building level before “big deal” consolidating at the classroom level.

    Opinions expressed in Metro VIEWS are not necessarily the opinion of the networks that post it.

    Metro VIEWS
    is a community service of the
    Greater Orange Communities Organization


    Seriously? I went to Elmo and I had classes that routinely had 35 or so in it, and others that had 15. Depending on what my schedule was like and what the class availibility was. In all honesty, being in a large class actually was beneficial to me as it taught me to become more self-reliant and focus more on my education. Go to Orange Coast College in the larger class-rooms where as many as 70 students can be enrolled in a single class with one teacher. Now at the younger grades smaller class size is always more desirable, but in this day and age its honestly not realistic.

    It really comes down to dollars and "sense". Im sure we would all love to pay the teachers six figures, have new text books every year, have Bmw provide school transportation. The money, however is not there for that. Its very easy to criticize without providing answers of your own. Thoughtful commentary generally not only has criticisms but also suggestions as how to recitfy the problem addressed. I can criticize all I want, but unless I have a better idea i usually keep my mouth shut. Perhaps the Author of this article can benefit from this line of thinking.

    Sometimes Hard decisions have to be made, and they have to be done for the good of the many. Its very easy to mock a hard decision from the safey of anonymity.
    One of the main problems with larger classes at the elementary level is that kids are still learning how to read and write. More students per class means that the teacher has less time to spend per student (or per small group of students). Skills and subjects take longer to master and the school calendar has been cut shorter; yet the state standards don't change to accommodate any of this. There are more people in my third grade classroom than there are in my daughter's freshman english class. As usual all these cuts dump on the teachers and the superintendent states that "students in Orange Unified are still getting an excellent education." Yeah? Compared to what?
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