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Lil' Buddy's Blog - In Chicago, Less State School Funding May Lead to Higher Class Sizes . . . SOON!


Buddy Formal Photograph - With a Big Smile!Hey, you dogs!  Slowly, surely . . . Spring is returning to Chicago.  Lots of squirrels to chase, a few robins to bark at.  After a seemingly-endless winter, life is beginning to look brighter, every day!

As the economic recession still stubbornly drags on, IL Tax Revenues have fallen.  Statewide, many programs have been slashed.  Funding for local school districts, including those in Chicago and Chicago Suburbs, has not been immune.

Many elementary and high school districts in the Chicago Area are now faced with substantial budget cuts.  To bridge their own growing budget gaps, many districts are trimming their teaching staffs.  The result:  higher class sizes and less individual attention to students.

Will the cuts reduce the quality of education children receive?  Many parents think so!

But is there an alternative?

Today's Feature Story in the Chicago Tribune, by Reporters Lisa Black, Noreen Ahmed-Ullah, and Lolly Bowean tells of Chicago School Superintendent Ron Huberman.  He warns of a scenario where up to 3,200 Chicago Public School Teachers, plus 600 non-teacher staffers, can be laid off unless the massive district receives renewed state funding, coupled with adjustments to its teacher pension program.

Such layoffs, Huberman predicts, could drive up average class sizes across Chicago to 37 students, from the current 30.  The Chicago Public Schools now face a $700 Million Budget Shortfall, and the school chief hopes the layoffs, in the absence of further state funding, will help bridge the budget gap.

Earlier this month, district administrators in the Northwest Chicago Suburb of Elgin IL announced their plans to lay off roughly 1,100 employees - including 732 teachers - across District U-46, the second largest school district in IL.  They hope their move will trim $30 Million from their own budget deficit of $44 Million.

In the tony Chicago Suburb of Highland Park IL, school administrators in North Shore  District 112 floated the idea of increasing average class sizes by only one or two additional students.  They wanted to trim $300,000 off their own growing budget shortfall.

But the district's move was met with heavy opposition from parents, and the administrators quickly backed off.  In 2009, the average class size across the district was 19 in grades Kindergarten through five, and 21 in the middle school grades.

In the Western Chicago Suburbs, Wheaton-Warrenville District 200 has proposed eliminating 71 teaching positions next year, as part of an attempt to trim $6.4 Million in costs.  

In affluent Barrington IL, Northwest of Chicago, Community Unit School District 220 plans to lay off 15 non-tenured teachers, mainly in Barrington High School.  Administrators predict average class sizes at the school might increase to 30 students.  Across the district, the average will remain at about 25 students per class, a figure most teachers and parents consider acceptable.

In most school districts, the highest budget line item is personnel cost - often, up to 80% of the total school district's operating budget.  The most effective way to truly curtail spending, administrators feel, is to trim teachers and staff.

But do larger class sizes reduce the overall quality of education?  Experts debate that.

Northwestern University Professor of Education and Social Policy, David Figlio, finds little difference in educational value of a class of 22 students versus one of 25 or 27.  But parents in schools facing this sort of a change, he feels, will resist vehemently.

Although smaller class sizes do allow teachers to spend more time with individual students, it is the quality of the teacher that is a better predictor of academic success or failure.  One Educational Researcher at Stanford University said even a small class size can't make up  for a mediocre teacher.  Class sizes as high as 37 students were considered.

One possible effect of reducing staff, and increasing class sizes, may be less attention on the good, non-disruptive students in each classroom, while teachers increase their focus on  those kids causing trouble.  Cuts can also impact classrooms of special needs students, where layoffs of teacher's aides assist students physically, and also help teach curriculum.

This is serious stuff for humans, you dogs, and one unpleasant side effect of the economic recession.

When I graduated from Puppy Training, our class size was a comfortable 11.  But that was during better economic times.

In 2005!

Bark if you need me!

See my post today via BlogChicagoHomes.com.



Comment balloon 0 commentsDean Moss • March 28 2010 08:10AM
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