Compliance With Class-Size Requirements

The Texas Education Agency on September 3 sent out its annual notice to school superintendents on compliance with class-size requirements under Texas Education Code Section 25.112. That section of state law says that as a general rule “a school district may not enroll more than 22 students in a kindergarten, first, second, third, or fourth grade class.” The commissioner of education in the September 3 notice reiterates his stance that “class size limits do not apply to physical education classes or fine arts classes.”

Though some superintendents complain that the law is too restrictive, in fact TEA makes it relatively simple for a district to receive a waiver of the class-size cap. Each district must conduct a survey of class size for grades K-4 by September 10. For any class in grades K-4 that is found to exceed the limit, the district can submit a waiver request that will receive virtually automatic approval, as long as the district follows up by October 1 by submitting to TEA a copy of a plan to come into compliance if any future additional classes exceed the 22-to-1 limit.

TEA’s September 3 guidance letter sets out other requirements, including this notable one regarding campus ratings:  “All campuses covered by the waiver are expected to have a student performance rating that is at least acceptable, if the waiver request is due to shortages of facilities and/or teachers.”

What some superintendents really chafe under is the requirement that parents and the public must be notified of class-size waivers. Section 25.113 of the Education Code says a district that claims compliance with the class-size cap would cause “undue hardship” must provide written notice to parents of students affected by the waiver.

Waivers can be granted for successive years, but the notice requirements increase. Thus, for districts requesting a waiver for more than two consecutive years, the district must ensure a public notification that makes the community aware of the waiver request and the actions the district is taking to reduce the need for continued waivers.

For the third or more consecutive years of a waiver request for a campus, parents and community members must be invited to a meeting with school staff to discuss the continued need for the waiver, steps being taken to come into compliance, and the timeline for action.

If a district requests a class-size waiver for the seventh or subsequent year at a campus, the local board of trustees must hold a public hearing regarding the continued need for the waiver.For the full text of TEA’s “to the administrator addressed” guidance letter on this topic, see:  http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/taa/classsize20100907.html.

There is no doubt that in the next legislative session some lawmakers, in cahoots with equally misguided school administrators, will take a run at weakening these requirements. Texas AFT will oppose these efforts, as we have done successfully in past sessions. If anything, class-size limits need to be strengthened, and Texas AFT will work with others of like mind to defend and enhance this safeguard of educational quality.

If you’re a Facebook user and want to stay in loop on this issue, we encourage you to “Like” our “Save the 22:1 Class-Size Limit” page at http://www.facebook.com/22to1.