About three months into negotiations over a new contract for Seattle’s teachers, the union is breaking the usual silence around those talks to protest a district proposal to increase class size.
The Seattle Education Association has scheduled a rally Wednesday afternoon to denounce the district’s desire to raise the number of students that can be in each classroom before the district must provide help for the teacher, and pay the teacher more money. The rally is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. outside Franklin High School.
Starting in fall 2014, district officials want to be able to add two additional students to classes in grades 4-12. That would mean that fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms could have 30 students before help or extra money would be required, and high school teachers could see 160 students instead of 150 per day.
District officials have told the union that raising class sizes is a short-term solution to the district’s space problems, given its growing enrollment. A district spokeswoman said Wednesday that she couldn’t confirm that’s the full reason for the proposal.
In the long term, the district is building a handful of new schools and expanding others with money from the capital levy voters approved in February.
Union leaders say the district should find a better, more creative way to deal with its space crunch.
“Any way we try to slice and dice it, raising class sizes doesn’t make any sense to us,” said SEA President Jonathan Knapp. “We don’t feel the district is going in the right direction.”
Under the Washington Supreme Court’s school funding decision, class sizes are supposed to get smaller, not larger. And in a recent national survey on class sizes, Knapp said, Washington ranked 47th.
The class-size issue, he said, is the biggest sticking point in the negotiations over a new teachers contract. The current contract expires at the end of this month.