Parents and education leaders discuss growing class sizes in Texas

Crowded classrooms across Texas

As the population grows, school districts are reporting larger class sizes in Texas.

Under the current law, school districts cannot have more than 22 students in kindergarten through fourth-grade classrooms, unless they get a waiver.

Here are the numbers from the Texas Education Agency for 2016-2017:

  • Austin ISD was approved for six waivers
  • Round Rock ISD was approved for 18 waivers
  • Leander ISD was approved for 46 waivers

In 2011, the Texas legislature cut $5.4 billion from public school budgets.

"The state now pays for only about 43 percent of the foundation school program, the basic education cost,” said Clay Robison, Texas State Teacher's Association.

Robison said many districts are still recovering.

"What should happen is the legislature should fund the schools to such an extent, that most school districts can honor 22 to 1 ratio. That would be a huge step in the right direction,” he said.

While many classrooms only exceed the maximum number by one or two students, some parents told KVUE even one or two more students can make an impact.

“I think there are a lot of variables you have to consider, if those two students that are coming in have ADHD for example, they do require more paperwork and attention,” said Sylvia Worsham, Round Rock ISD parent.

KVUE did find some parents, who said their children are doing fine with the current class size.

"My daughter, who especially is learning she is dyslexic at this point, because the class size is small, the teacher was able to catch that,” said Jill Fischer, Round Rock ISD parent.

However, some parents said they do have to make sure their children don’t get left behind.

"If I had not gone over homework every day, reminded him what needs to be done, helped him, he definitely would not have progressed,” said Kathryn Nunez, Leander ISD parent, referring to her son.

Research shows 13 to 17 students per class is the ideal number for students to learn at an optimal level, especially for students who are struggling.

However, both the teacher's association and the school districts said those numbers are unrealistic.

"Leander is the fastest growing school district in all of Austin area,” said Terry Abbott, Leander Independent School District.

On the waiver report, Leander and other districts cited either “unanticipated growth” or “financial hardship,” as the reason for the larger class sizes.

While parents don't see it as a major problem now, many of them said they are concerned for the future.

"When it becomes the norm, rather than the exception, I only see it's going to get worse,” said Laura Podnar, Round Rock ISD Parent.

Officials with Leander and Round Rock ISD told KVUE they are able to give their students the attention they need, even with the slightly larger class sizes. They cited their students' high test scores, which are well above average.

Those districts are also planning on expanding to keep up with increasing enrollment.

Leander district leaders said they plan to build 10 schools in 10 years to keep up. Round Rock ISD leaders are calling for a bond election in May, asking the voters for more than $570-million for new schools and technology.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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