Teachers union refuses to consider plan to create smaller class sizes

December 21, 2012

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Victor Skinner Victor Skinner

Victor is a communications specialist for EAG and joined in 2009. Previously, he was a newspaper journalist.
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MANCHESTER, N.H. – Two local school boards that share a high school are squabbling with their local teachers union over a request to allow 10 teachers to take on an extra class.

houseThe Candia school board wants the Manchester city school board to negotiate a deal with the teachers union to allow 10 teachers to teach an extra class in an effort to reduce class sizes below the state standard of 30 students, the Union Leader reports.

The problem is the Manchester Education Association union isn’t very interested in helping out.

“Typically speaking, I don’t think it’s in the best interest of anybody,” MEA president Ben Dick told the news site.

Although there are probably 10 teachers who would step up to teach six classes instead of five, those teachers likely wouldn’t get a preparation period, and that’s “just too much to undertake,” Dick said.

Candia school board members, who send students from their district to Manchester Central High School, contend class sizes over 30 constitute a breach of their contract with the city school district. Some are “terrified to send our kids back to Manchester,” Candia board member Nicole LaFlamme told the newspaper.

Several residents recently spoke up about the issue at a board meeting.

“Central is an amazing school,” former student Alicia Frazier said. “It’s more than just numbers. I know class size is a huge thing, but if you really want to look at education, look beyond the class size.”

That’s some pretty sage advice from a recent graduate, and it’s one education reformers have made for years. It’s not the size of a class that’s the most important factor. It’s the teacher leading the class. Studies have shown an effective teacher is the perhaps the most important variable school officials can control.

But teachers unions typically insist that smaller class sizes are critical. That’s why the MEA’s reluctance to allow 10 members to voluntarily take on extra duties and shrink class sizes is baffling.

The 10 teachers can decide for themselves whether they can do the extra work and live without planning time. They don’t need the union to think for them.

Perhaps cooperation with school boards is just too much to ask from some union officials. School boards are left with the task of improving instruction any way possible, while the unions go out of their way to obstruct reasonable solutions.

Some things never change.

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