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Monday, May 24, 2010 - 7:29am

Class Size Caps Lifted

Local school systems now have the flexibility to increase class sizes as they see fit in order to deal with tighter budgets.

The vote by the state’s Board of Education Monday removes the restriction on the maximum for the number of students in a Georgia classroom. The Department of Education says the move is for the next school year only.

It’s being done to give systems the power to adjust as they need in the face of deep budget cuts, projected to be more than $900 million in the next school year. The one condition—local districts must allow for public consideration of a move to increase class sizes.

The Department of Education says already since last fall, more than a hundred districts have been granted waivers to increase class sizes by an average one to three students.

As for education advocates that say this latest move further erodes Georgia’s education, the DOE’s Matt Cardoza says this:

“What is also hurtful is for us to be in the way and telling local school systems that we’re not going to give them any flexibility to actually manage through these tough times. What would be hurtful is that is if we don’t give flexibility and more teachers have to be laid-off because they don’t have money to make payroll.”

Tim Callahan of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators agrees that districts need to have certain restrictions rolled back, but he has a fear with this move.

“Flexibility is important to get us through this crisis, but I hope all our systems will keep the quality instruction of the students paramount in their minds, and not simply try to load up classes to make the numbers balance.”

Callahan calls the budget crisis for Georgia education right now "historically bad" and that teacher morale is low.