Friday, August 24, 2012

The view from right-field on class size

Checker Finn (right) and his Fordham Foundation crew are upset at White House report.
“So it should concern everyone that right now – all across America – tens of thousands of teachers are getting laid off....Think about what that means for our country. When there are fewer teachers in our schools, class sizes start climbing up. Our students start falling behind. And our economy takes a hit.” -- President Obama
Finn, Petrilli & Co. (pictured above) over at the right-wing Fordham Institute are freaking out over a recent White House report, Investing in Our Future: Returning Teachers to the Classroom, which they describe as"decrying lost teaching jobs that will allegedly swell classes around the country." In the latest edition of Fordham's Flypaper, TFAer (of course) Tyson Eberhardt goes off on Obama for his apparent flip on the question of class size. 
As the election heats up, the Obama camp clearly sees class size and teacher layoffs as promising lines of political attack and important ways to energize powerful labor allies less than thrilled with many of the White House’s education priorities over the last four years. Unfortunately for the Dems, however, strident infomercials and gloomy white papers can’t undo the now-awkward but still-sound remarks of Mr. Obama’s education secretary on the issue. “Class size has been a sacred cow and we need to take it on,” Arne Duncan correctly said in 2011, a year after arguing that “districts may be able to save money without hurting students, while allowing modest but smartly targeted increases in class size.”
Eberhardt has a point. Why has it taken until election time for the Dems to say the right thing on this crucial ed issue? Is this a real break from Duncan's blathering about the benefits of larger class size or just a bone being thrown to bring union voters back into the fold?

Either way, the fact remains that Obama has finally responded to Romney on an important issue of education. Will the Dems actually come up with a convention education plank?

With the loss of 300,000 teaching jobs in the past two years, resulting from budget cuts as well as from  the administration's own Race To The Top policies, class sizes in urban districts (not where Duncan or Obama send their children to school) have swelled to crisis proportions.  According to the report, "the national student-teacher ratio increased by 4.6 percent from 2008 to 2010, rolling back all the gains made since 2000." But that doesn't even begin to tell the real story.

In urban districts with high concentrations of children of color, like Detroit and Los Angeles, class sizes are now reaching 45-60 students. Duncan, along with his pals on the right -- remember, Duncan first made ridiculous bigger-is-better comments at an American Enterprise Institute conference -- continue to pose the false choice between a good teacher or a rational class size -- a choice wealthy suburban or private school parents never have to make.

Whatever his motives, Obama has taken a meaningful step forward in this report. It's no wonder he has the flies at Flypaper buzzing. I'm sure the boys at DFER aren't too happy either.

For more info and the latest research on class size, go to Class Size Matters.

1 comment:

  1. Who knew the Fordham Foundation crew was so ... hmm how do we put this..... Healthy? Fit? Nubile?


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