Class Size in Texas May Not Blow Up After All

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It's not going to be carte blanche and open the door to pack 25 kids into a classroom in Texas public school classrooms after all.

Rep. Rob Eissler (R- The Woodlands) whose House Bill 18 wanted to move the state to a cap of 25 students in each classroom, today instead made a floor substitution which only mildly tweaked the present classroom size regulations calling for a cap of 22 students in grades K through 4. This had to be good news for State Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston), who has argued continually that upping the class size was a bad move for the state and its children.

And districts would still have to notify parents of children whose rooms exceed the 22 cap.

Superintendents have always been able to apply for waivers if they can successfully argue that holding students to the 22 cap "works an undue hardship on the district." Eissler's bill would have removed even that requirement. Instead, districts will still be required to prove why they should be granted a waiver.

In addition, the proposed new language now allows a waiver if the Texas Education Commissioner "determines that as a result of a reduction in state funding levels, the amount of state and local funds per weighted student available to the district is less than the amount...available to the district in the preceeding year."

Or in other words, if the district can mathematically prove a financial hardship. Any such waiver granted would expire at the end of the school year for which it is granted.

Texas American Federation of Teachers President Linda Bridges released this statement on passage of the retooled HB 18 on second reading:

"Parents and teachers have spoken out and made it clear that the class-size law is an important safeguard that shouldn't fall victim to a temporary fiscal crisis, and at least on this occasion lawmakers listened. The new provisions proposed for the class-size cap merely add more specificity to what was already in place--districts having the ability to get a waiver to the cap from the commissioner of education, who rarely denies waiver requests.

Still in place are the requirements that hold districts accountable for trying to follow the law, including parental notification when class-size caps are exceeded. This is a major victory for parents, teachers and especially students. Their massive outcry against attempts to gut this law made a difference, and students are the winners today."

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