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Some Say Class Size Increases Result Of State Budget Cuts

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FRISCO (CBSDFW.COM) – While the state legislature hasn’t been in session for months, North Texas is starting to see some of the side effects from massive education budget cuts.

Faced with a $27 billion state budget shortfall, the Texas Legislature cut $4 billion, over the next two years, in funding for school districts. Now many local school districts are asking the state for exceptions to enlarge their classes, because they have fewer teachers due to layoffs.

It depends on where you look in the Frisco Independent School District. There, some classrooms have shrunk while others have grown.

The Frisco ISD is shrinking the size of some classes at middle schools, after administrators determined they were too large. One 6th grade class at Cobb Middle School, for instance, now has 18 students — down from 29.

After the cuts to public education funding many were worried that class sizes would jump dramatically. But have they?

From kindergarten through 8th grade, the average class size has jumped by only one student, in all but one grade. Classes in the 5th grade stayed the same size.

Meanwhile, zero to low class size increases aren’t the case at high schools in Frisco, where student class numbers have jumped dramatically.

Last year there was an average of just under 20 students in Frisco high school classes. This year that number jumped to 25.

One chemistry class at Lone Star High has 28 students. Laura Garza has a daughter in 10th grade. “Oh, that’s definitely too many,” she said. “I think it takes away the one on one with the kids. There are some kids who need more help than others.”

Denise Free also has a child in 10th grade and disagrees. “At this level, you know they go to college, it’s the real world.”

Frisco ISD Deputy Superintendent Richard Wilkinson blames the state budget cuts. “We feel very fortunate to have had the smaller classes in the past, and we’re being more like everyone else as for students per class.”

Frisco gained 3,000 students this year, but has roughly the same amount of teachers as last year: just over 2,600. The district has hired 17 teachers to keep science and English classes from getting too big at high schools and middle schools.

Rena Honea is president of Alliance AFT Dallas, a large teachers’ group, who said, in general, when it comes to classes smaller is better.

“You can do more of the engaging activities, you can do more one-on-one instruction that needs to take place, but with these large classes, [there’s] a lot of crowd control, and management control,” she said.

In the Fort Worth ISD, the district is hiring 60 additional teachers because the district has 2,000 more students. Average class sizes for all grades stayed the same as last year.

There are 500 additional students in the Dallas ISD, but more than 700 fewer teachers. Average class sizes remained the same in kindergarten through fifth grades. But the average for middle and high schools rose slightly.

For now, administrators in Frisco and other school districts across North Texas worry classes may get even larger next year — when more severe state budget cuts kick in.

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