Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Delaware's Law Of Good Intentions

Parents are always interested in having smaller class sizes for their children. Teachers are almost always interested in teaching smaller class sizes. So far, so good.....

Seven years ago, the folks in Delaware
voted on smaller class sizes. The way the law was supposed to work was that the maximum class size in grades kindergarten through three was to be set at 22 students. Supposedly, the 22 student limit would apply to instruction in the core academic subjects of English, mathematics, science, and social studies.

There was just one little problem:

That same law gives local school boards an out, allowing districts to waive the class-size requirement without facing a penalty as long as they hold a public hearing.

Requesting a waiver has become a yearly routine in most districts - even as the Legislature is considering expanding the law to include more grade levels.

"Nobody wants to see 30 kids in a classroom," Christina School Board member Connie Merlet said at that district's class-size waiver hearing in September. "We get criticized every year for doing it, but we're forced into it by the existing state law."

Timothy Boulden, a former state representative who sponsored the class-size law, said progress has been made since its passage in 1998. He believes classes are smaller today than before the cap, although no data exists on the average class size before the requirement.

Districts plead that the reason they can't comply with the law is due to insufficient funding by the state government for the paying of teacher salaries and the construction of classroom space.

In our opinion, the most asisnine thing about this whole episode is how the state is considering the expansion of this already dysfunctional law to include more grade-levels.

We guess that we can refer to this sort of non-enforceable-make-believe-feel-good regulation as the "Law of Good Intentions."

An Invitation: All writers and readers of education-related posts are invited to contribute to the eighth edition of The Carnival of Education. Please send your submissions to: owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net. We should receive your contributions no later than 10:00 PM (Pacific) Tonight, March 29, 2005. The Carnival midway will open here at the 'Wonks Wednesday morning. Get additional details about The Carnival here, and the latest edition there.

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