Parents concerned with large class sizes - WNEM TV 5

Parents concerned with large class sizes

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SAGINAW TOWNSHIP, MI (WNEM) -

Parents were shocked to learn their kids were in a classroom with 34 students.

Parents said 34 is too many for one classroom and worry it could leave their child with more distractions, fewer resources and less one-on-one time with the teacher.

"I'm frustrates with how big the class sizes are," said Denise Dowdell, parent.

She is worried about her daughter's education. She is concerned with what she calls overcrowded classrooms at Arrowwood Elementary School and other schools throughout the district.

"I feel like it's an issue to the student safety and student growth and education," Dowdell said.

Saginaw Township Community Schools Superintendent Doug Trombley acknowledged the average class size is 32 students.

"In my opinion it's high, but not too high. We've run class sizes similar to that in the past," Trombley said.

He said he would like to see that number closer to 30.

Despite the challenges of a crowded classroom, Trombley said staff and students are making the grade.

"It's been shown that even when we had high class sizes we've outperformed districts just like ours to an exceptional degree. And I put that back in the hands of the fact that we have great teachers that were able to manage those larger class sizes," Trombley said.

For now, Trombley is asking any concerned parents to have some patience. He said he should get a true sense of how many students are in classrooms throughout the district by early next week or sooner.

Trombley said he is open to making adjustments if student head count gets too high.

"If those numbers exceed my personal threshold we will look at adding a section if necessary," Trombley said.

That is a move Dowdell would like to see happen. She hopes no students gets left behind,

"I want everybody to have their needs met. Whether it's catching up, being pushed to excel or getting some extra assistance," Dowdell said.

The district said the problem stems from a lack of funding.

How funding is distributed to local schools

"We're about $1,600 per pupil less than the state average. Which for us equates to $8 million a year," Trombley said.

He said his district is like many throughout Saginaw County that are underfunded when compared to the state average. Trombley said the reason for the discrepancy is a state measure voters approved 23 years ago.

"When proposal A took effect way back in the '90s, there were a couple of areas that consideration wasn't made. And that had to do with areas that were typically funded through millages in the local counties," Trombley said.

According to the state fiscal agency, before proposal A schools were funded primarily through local property taxes. In 1994 when the proposal passed it eliminated 64 percent of school funding. That's because property taxes were no longer on the hook to fund education.

This was done to lower property taxes and promised to level out the playing field for school districts.

Lawmakers in Lansing had to find a way to recoup that lost revenue. They did so by creating the school aid fund - a combination of tax increased and lottery revenue. At the same time lawmakers allowed districts to get a foundation allowance, a dollar amount based on what a district received before proposal A. Any funding needed beyond that is left to millages.

The problem in Saginaw County is it doesn't have a county wide millage.

"Proposal A passed with many of those counties and those millages remained in effect. Saginaw County was not one of those counties. So on that end of it, we're funded lower than most," Trombley said.

That's why his district sits at $1,600 per student less than the state average.

Trombley stops short of saying passing an education millage is the answer. Instead, he would like to see the state make a long term structural fix to the issue.

"I think the state has begun that conversation in Lansing, but there's a long ways to go," Trombley said.

In the new state budget set to take effect Oct. 1, schools will see a per pupil funding increase of $60 to $120.

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