Recent budget cuts have made it harder for Texas schools to keep class sizes below the required maximum, but a new waiver option from the Texas Education Agency may make things easier.
Previously, schools could request an exemption based on a lack of facilities or teachers, or because of unanticipated growth. Now they've added a new reason - financial hardship.
Texas law says there should be no more than 22 students per class in elementary schools, but school districts suffering from budget cuts should now find it easier to get a waiver.
Struggling to close a budget shortfall, Texas lawmakers have approved massive funding cuts that will directly affect local student/teacher ratios.
"We've definitely been affected by a $13 million cut to our state revenue over the next 2 years; however, that is not going to be remedied by increasing class sizes over the 22 to 1 ratio," LISD Director of Communications and Community Relations Nancy Sharp said.
Sharp says the number of waivers needed by LISD is down this year.
"Last year we had 40 classes in the district where we needed to apply for a waiver. This year we are down to 21," Sharp said.
Lubbock Cooper ISD is already at risk of going over the 1 to 22 ratio, strictly due to enrollment growth.
"We're going to level some off, but we'll probably have some classes at 23 and probably have to request waivers for those," LCISD Superintendent Pat Henderson said.
"Nothing happens at 23," he said. "The educational quality does not go down just because you add that 23rd student."
Henderson says it's better to have more students in a classroom than to put students in a class with an unqualified teacher.
"I would rather get a waiver and know that those kids are in the classroom with a quality teacher then go out and find a body," Henderson said.
Schools have until Oct. 3 to apply for the waivers.
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