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Texas Lawmakers Consider Increasing Classroom Sizes

Texas legislators will consider increasing the number of students permitted in lower grade classes as the state faces an estimated $11 billion budget shortfall going into the 2011 session.

The Dallas Morning News reported Monday that state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston says the 22-student limit is costing school districts “millions and millions of dollars” without any evidence that it boosts student performance.

Leaders of a special legislative committee, Sen. Florence Shapiro of Plano and Rep. Rob Eissler of The Woodlands, say class size standards will be scrutinized.

Teacher groups are preparing to fight any change to the requirement, which limits classes in kindergarten through fourth grade to 22 pupils.

They say it’s the main cause of student improvement over the last two decades and note that smaller classes are popular with parents.

The Texas Education Agency does sometimes grant requests for waivers to the rule.

The requirement limiting class sizes was enacted 25 years ago. A new class must be created, with an additional teacher, when a class hits 23 or more students.

The legislative committee’s recommendations will come as lawmakers deal with what is expected to be a record revenue shortfall approaching $15 billion.

About 60 percent of the state’s general revenue funds are spent on education.

In El Paso, Socorro Education Association President Glenda Hawthorne believes it’s the lawmakers who caused the budget crunch in the first place and says they shouldn’t punish students.

“The first place the legislature normally cuts funds is public schools,” she said.

Socorro ISD board member Tony Ayub added while adjusting the student cap could benefit struggling school districts in the short term, “I’m not sure it would benefit the students in the long-term” he said.

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