As presented to the JCPS BOE on 1/11/16
I’m here tonight on behalf of — what has grown in 6 short months to — over 5,000 Dear JCPS members. This group of taxpayers, parents, students and teachers are stakeholders in the future of public education in Louisville. We want to address the subject of raising classroom caps and what could lead to unintended consequences.
We are opposed to any proposal that allows the district to raise classroom caps, regardless if it’s positioned to shift resources around to schools in need. Stakeholders have learned from previous experiences that there’s a chance that good intentions could be lost with future decisions. For example, when the board voted unanimously to approve the creation of a magnet-only middle school. One year after opening it, the board voted to shut down another middle school and the fledgling magnet-only middle school had to take on a resides population that it wasn’t ready for and that wasn’t ready for it. The integrity of the first decision was unintentionally overwritten by another seemingly unrelated decision. Further, the lack of controls in place further allowed the loss of integrity to the school’s original goal and their scores dropped before it ever had a chance to fulfill its goals.
In life, you can pay now or pay later. However, when it comes to educating students, we all know, paying later costs significantly more. It takes much less money to educate elementary school children than it does to teach those same skills to a middle schooler and even more to a high schooler. We know this, yet our 3rd grade reading pledge has gone unfulfilled, and we are still passing some students on to high school without ensuring that they can read and do basic math; which is imperative for academic success. These types of behaviors compound and are among the reasons we already spend more money as a district than we should. It’s is not right to take resources away from ANY students by raising class sizes as this will do nothing to fix the problems our students are facing. And in fact, research shows students in poverty, with special needs as well as gifted and talented and AP students all benefit from smaller class sizes.
Public Education as a WHOLE is in crisis. We as a district need to acknowledge that there is a problem so that we, as a community working together, can start making progress to address and correct these problems and build the best school district our city has ever seen. We need for stakeholders to have a reason to believe that this time it’s different. Once this happens, the community will rally to support changes such as identifying cost savings by eliminating unnecessary busing routes, staving off charters, and contacting legislators to raise state funding and even get behind a property tax hike. But first, we have to restore our community’s faith in public education. And raising classroom caps in an already tumultuous educational environment is taking a step in the opposite direction and exposes the change to unintended consequences.
The idea of robbing from Peter to pay Paul only pits schools against each other and causes resentment among families from different schools who feel that they’ve been cheated. It causes resentment among teachers who don’t want to leave their school. It takes decision-making ability away from the local school level.
We all know it takes a village. So, instead of a competitive environment, why not create a collaborative one? Competition is only meaningful when the rules are fair. Right now, the way students are assigned and schools are measured, the game is rigged. With this proposal, the game remains rigged and only puts a bandaid on the problem.
Please vote no to raising class size caps, even by one. Please listen to the feedback of the stakeholders on both sides of this issue. Schools that would lose resources as well as those that would gain are opposed to this proposal. It’s a no win situation.
With Vision 2020, we know we have a tough road ahead. But this proposal is taking a giant step backwards.
Together we can do this.