published Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Gov. Haslam drops proposal to change Tennessee class-size rules

NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam announced this morning he is dropping his controversial proposal to let schools increase average class sizes, but said he plans to bring it back next year with modifications.

“It’s no secret it has met with mixed reviews at best,” Haslam told reporters. “We have made the decision for this year not to push that forward through the committees in the legislative process.”

“We still quite frankly are committed to the idea,” he said, “but we have gotten feedback from across the state whether it be school boards or superintendents or teachers or legislators [that] ‘We don’t think you’ve gotten this exactly right.’”

Haslam’s plan was to give local school districts more flexibility on average class-size caps but retain maximum class-size caps on individual classrooms.

Letting schools increase the number of students in a class by several students, the administration argued, would result in cost savings which districts could use to recruit new teachers and provide better pay to veterans who teach difficult subjects and in low-performing schools.

The proposal drew significant opposition from the Tennessee Education Association, which warned it could result in the loss of thousands of teachers statewide.

“Maximum class sizes was not going to change at all in this bill,” Haslam said. “The average class size was.”

A number of school boards and superintendents didn’t like the idea because, while state funding wouldn’t change, they feared it would embolden local county commissions, which determine the amount of local funding to schools, to cut back on the money.

For complete details, see tomorrow’s Times Free Press.

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