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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Separate class size reduction from counselors

Dear Editor:

During the summer of 1996, when Governor Pete Wilson announced that class size reduction would be implemented within the month in grades K-3 I remember being filled with a sense of foreboding at what this extravagant, poorly planned and unbelievably rigid program, would do to the entire public education program in California.

The state offered a carrot to the districts, but the amount of indirect costs to each district were not spelled out. It was obvious after the first month of implementation that these costs were going to be staggering to all of us. The cost was space for enrichment programs that benefited the entire school, losing veteran teachers in the upper grades as they bumped down to the lower class sizes, unfair working conditions for grades 4-6 teachers. Class size reduction did not include any programmatic changes. The very students it was ostensibly designed for might not be any better off under class size reduction because of the very nature of their reading problems and their economic demographics. The bulk of the students in public schools can learn to read in a larger class (they have been doing so for years).The lack of flexibility in the program. spelled out that if a school had a class with 1 more than 20 students they had to carve out a separate class. There have been many classes of 10, 12, 15 in this state under class size reduction.

After grade three the students were then put into regular sized classes. Perhaps there were all sorts of ways that class sized reduction could have been made a better program or a less expensive program, but those methods were not used. The state of California public schools went from too large classes to too small classes in K -3 almost overnight.

I think any accusations against any School Board member for putting their kids into Madera or any other school is really spurious. I can't even understand why John Cruger-Hansen would act like there is something wrong with that since he had his kids in Madera.

However, I do have one criticism of the three Board members who voted not to use reserves for both class size reduction and middle and high school counselors. I think they made a big mistake not supporting middle and high school guidance counselors. Guidance counselors are a proven part of an adequate public school education in California. While large class sizes have been part of California's educational history so have guidance counselors. They have played a vital role in helping high school students to graduate from high school and helping middle school students to navigate that most difficult period, called middle school. I would urge the three Board member, Harris, Ramsey, and Fenton to reconsider and vote to use the reserve to fund middle and high school guidance counselors.

Rebecca Hazlewood
Run dates: 2003-05-09 - 2003-05-23

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