THE WV SCHOOL BUILDING AUTHORITY: LEADING WEST VIRGINIA IN A RACE TO THE BOTTOM
Why has the West Virginia School Building Authority adopted and instituted bottom-feeder standards? Why does the SBA push schools toward 28 students per classroom in grade school?
It is widely known that, all other things equal, smaller class sizes greatly benefit students, for at least one obvious reason: fewer students allow teachers to give more attention to the various and specific needs of each student.
Is West Virginia serious about improving drop-out rates? Then the legislature should get serious about stepping in and pulling up the SBA’s anti-educational class size standards.
Maximum class size is actually state law – see WV Code §18-5-18a. Maximum teacher-pupil ratio – rather than an SBA mandate, however the SBA is the enforcer of minimum class size, because the SBA has a policy guideline that schools must be filled to a minimum of 85 percent of capacity (which means each classroom must be at least 85 percent full, on average). If school capacity is calculated on the 28 student per class standard (the 25 student “maximum” plus the 3 extra students allowed by law, then the minimum class size is 24, on average. If a flat 25 student maximum per class standard is used to calculate school capacity, then the minimum class size is more than 21 students, on average.
21 or 24 students per class should be flashing-red-light-warning signs of overcrowding, too many students per teacher. Instead, in West Virginia, the state bureaucrats and the county superintendents and the school board members crack the whip to enforce these sizes as minimums, then they speak out of the other side of their mouths in whining and moaning about drop-out rates and “discipline” problems. Instead they should look at the class size whip in their hands as a guilty party, and point their fingers at the state legislature and the SBA that put that anti-educational and bullying whip directly into the often all-too eager hands of the board and the superintendent.
So it is that the legislative “maximum” class sizes are pushed by the SBA’s 85 percent minimum rule into class sizes approaching minimums. In an effort to try to meet that 85 percent minimum capacity standard, too few schools get built for enrollment fluctuations and so some schools are forced to operate over capacity: the maximum sizes become too difficult for some classrooms to meet even as minimums. Thus, according to state and local records, last year in Monongalia County, North Elementary operated over capacity. And so did Suncrest Primary. And the new 2012 SBA-funded “green” school is scheduled to open 3 percent over capacity.
So when a parent notes in passing that his daughter had 29 students in her class last year at North Elementary, no one is surprised. 19 students should be considered a lot. But by SBA standards, 19 students would be far below its anti-educational, education-on-the-cheap 85 percent of “capacity” standard. You get what you pay for. If schools only pay for lousy student-to-teacher ratios, then this will contribute to higher dropout ratios, “discipline” problems, and more poorly educated students. It will also continue to drive people into fields other than teaching.
For that steaming heap, we can thank the SBA. The SBA mandates it. The SBA is dumping on students, one brick and slab of mortar at a time. The newly elected state legislature (page not yet updated) needs to step in and make a change.