SEATTLE — The Seattle teachers union says Washington state is 47th in the nation when it comes to class size. So they were caught off-guard when the district brought up the idea of increasing class sizes during contract negotiations.
“In an environment where the (state) Supreme Court has mandated we fund basic education and to ensure lower class sizes, the last thing we expected was to have an increase in class size put on the table,” Seattle Education Association Vice President Phyllis Campano said Wednesday.
Teachers and parents gathered at Franklin High School Wednesday to protest against bigger classes. They know some Seattle schools are at capacity, and the district has a limited budget.
“The district is in a tough position where they have to save dollars,” teacher Laurie Kazanjian said. “What we’re saying is we understand that need for prudence. Class size is not the place to save money.”
The district tries to cap elementary school classes at 28 students. This proposal would add one more student in fourth- through 12th-grade classes during the 2014-15 school year.
“It doesn’t sound like a lot when you say it,” Campano said. “But when you already have overcrowded classrooms, that makes a difference.”
“Class size is foundational for teacher-student relationships, also teacher-parent relationships,” Kazanjian said. “As class size increases, the ability to create a strong relationship decreases.”
The school district released a statement that said in part: “An increase to the class size cap is one of a number of solutions we are exploring to ensure that we can accommodate all students as they enroll.”
They went on to say that negotiations with the union continue, and they’re optimistic an agreement can be reached. The union says class size is an issue they don’t want to compromise on.
“I think it’s worth us sitting down with the district and looking at some creative solutions before we put it on the backs of the children,” Campano said.