Newsflash! Fewer Teachers Do Impact Class Size

On May 3, I was very critical of a newspaper story in the Independent Record because I felt it presented a very one-sided view about the need for cutbacks among teachers in the Helena School District. Despite District projections for increased numbers of student at every elementary school, the public was reassured that the proposed reductions “would not affect class sizes.”

On face, the claim made no sense. More students in every school, fewer teachers. Even I could tell that meant an impact on class sizes.

Flash forward less than four months and shock upon shock: elementary schools filled to capacity, with students being placed on waiting lists to get into their neighborhood schools and some classes seem likely to have a higher number of students than accreditation standards allow. According to the Independent Record, “Only two of the district’s 11 elementary schools — Warren, on York Road, and Bryant, near Helena High School — have space to accept more students.”

To be fair, it’s a good story, lacking only a little context. Given the District’s claim last April that students wouldn’t be affected, it’d be fair to ask them to explain the discrepancy. Another story, exploring why the District has chosen to hire additional non-teaching positions, following cutbacks and staffing concerns, also seems warranted.

Choices about budgets do matter.