Texas could adjust 22-student class limit, East Texans respond

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - State lawmakers are looking for ways to trim down a huge budget shortfall, to the estimated tune of $11 billion, going into next year. But, will that planning come at your child's educational expense?

Some lawmakers want to increase the strict limit on elementary school classroom size to help school districts save money. The requirement limits kindergarten through 4th grade classrooms to 22 students. It was enacted more than two decades ago.

A new class must be added at 23 students, which means adding another teacher and sometimes, more classroom space.

State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, is leading a select committee exploring options - including getting rid of the mandate. She said it could save some districts millions of dollars.

"It is a very expensive proposition for our schools," said Shapiro. "There's no valid statistic that proves that you get a better learning environment at 22-to-1. The number one relevant issue in a class is the teacher."

Bianez Mendez volunteers inside her son's classroom. She said the smaller the class, the better.

"Putting more students in one classroom, that's not going to flow," said Mendez. "How is one teacher going to focus on 20, 30, 40, students by herself?"

Shapiro said every district has the ability to do what is best for its community. "This is what we call local control at its finest," She said.

"Every year, I've been here, we've added teachers at the [K-4th grade] level," said Stan Surratt, superintendent of Lindale ISD.

Surratt said his district is growing, and agrees, removing the mandate may provide some flexibility for local districts. But Surratt said his goal is to keep Lindale's student-to-teacher ratios low—ideally, around 18-to-1. Even now, new classrooms are being added at the Early Childhood Center.

"More students per teacher, that's not what's best for students," he said.  "That's not what we're here for, and hopefully the legislators are here for the same reasons."

Meetings are already being held to get local district input on the proposed changes.

Lawmakers said, at this point, no new limit has been proposed, but there will be a limit.

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