Cost and Financing

It has been a widely held belief for many years that the number of students in a class can impact student learning through the amount of individualized instruction students receive and the level of disruptive behavior, which can be worse in classrooms with too many students. However, despite those popularly held views, empirical evidence does not show a clear-cut connection between class size and student achievement, particularly at the secondary school level. This lack of evidence showing favorable outcomes associated with reduced class size, combined with restrictive state budgets, has resulted in bigger class sizes in recent years. This article examines conflicting research regarding class size and student learning, as well as state policies governing the number of students per class.

He felt it was the only decision he could make.  He stepped down as the district’s number-one administrator in hopes of helping his cash-strapped budget.

Medora Community Schools Corp. Superintendent John Reed resigned Wednesday after his school board accepted his resignation.  This small, 270-student rural school district is facing cuts mandated by the Indiana legislature.  “I told the board that to maintain your programs – all that you offer the kids – the only thing that’s logical is that you do something at the administrative level.  And that’s when I gave them my resignation,” said Superintendent Reed. 

Although one-third of America’s children attend schools in areas classified as either rural or (small) towns, those schools are faced with numerous hardships compared to their city and suburban counterparts. The funding disparities among rural schools and their wealthier city and suburban counterparts have been significantly reduced, although not altogether erased, in many states during the past 10 to 20 years. Often, change has come as a consequence of legal action challenging state funding formulas that allegedly discriminated against property-poor school districts. Despite obvious gains, however, the struggle for funding equity and adequacy continues to be a paramount issue for rural school advocates in many regions. 

The Midwest, home to the first school voucher program in the nation, now has the most far-reaching U.S. voucher law as the result of actions taken this year in Indiana. 

Conventional wisdom would seem to indicate that smaller class sizes are superior to larger classes. After all, they would appear to provide opportunities for more individualized instruction, fewer discipline problems and, ultimately, increased student achievement. However, research has provided contradictory results on the relationship between class size and student achievement. This brief looks at the value of reduced class size in the light of shrinking or stagnant education budgets.

Across the Midwest, no single expenditure gobbles up more of the state budget pie than K-12 education — a reflection of the high priority that legislatures place on education, as well as the pressures that lawmakers have faced (from constituents and the courts, for example) to strengthen funding for schools. In the coming months, that dedication to K-12 education funding will be put to the test.

States aren’t waiting for reauthorization of the federal education law to find ways to boost academic achievement and student success. That education reform effort has already started and will continue in 2011. Despite delays at the national level, states are implementing a variety of strategies and initiatives to ensure students are prepared for the future. State legislatures will play an important role in preparing students for college and a career. States will tackle policy positions to implement common academic standards, close continuing achievement gaps, adequately prepare future teachers and find dollars to fund public education.

Nearly lost among races for governor, Congress and key statewide races, voters in several states decided the fate of numerous measures affecting public education – in many cases, whether to increase or limit school funding. The voter sentiment was a mixed bag for school funding.

Voters in at least nine states will have the opportunity when they go to the polls November 2 to decide the outcome of education-related referenda - most of which would either increase or reduce public school funding. The ballot measures will provide an interesting display of voter priorities – the desire by some for tax relief versus a call by others for more funding for education.

The race to education reform in Tennessee was several years in the making, but broke into a sprint at the end. The Tennessee General Assembly convened for a special session Jan. 12 to consider education reforms in advance of an application deadline for the federal Race to the Top competition, a  $4.35 billion education grant program included in the 2009 stimulus package. Three days later, legislators approved the governor’s changes to improve the state’s chances for a first round award. The changes affect teacher evaluation and tenure, teacher preparation programs and the state’s authority to intervene in poorly performing schools.