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New bill could increase classroom sizes in the Volunteer State

From Local 3 News- A newly proposed law in Tennessee would remove the cap on how many students can be in a classroom with a teacher.

 

If passed, school districts in Tennessee would be able to increase student-teacher ratios inside of their schools.

 

Senator Jon Lundberg, of Bristol, Tenn, introduced Senate Bill 197 earlier this week.

Jill Weitz, the Director of Communications for UnifiEd, an organization that advocates for public education, believes she has an idea of why Senator Lundberg proposed the law.

 

“We know that there is a teacher shortage and it’s happening not just in Hamilton County, not just in Tennessee, but nationally. So, I am assuming this is the way this bill came about,” Weitz said.

Under the current legislation, the maximum class sizes are 25 for kindergarten through third grade, 30 for fourth through sixth grade, and 35 for seventh grade and up.

 

In Hamilton County, the student to teacher ratio is 18-1.

Weitz said allowing more students than what’s under the current law is going to increase disruption in classrooms.

 

“I think it is going to make it harder accomplish what they set out for. I am not an educator, but I couldn’t imagine as a teacher feeling supported with legislation like that,” Weitz said.

 

She believes it will also limit how well teachers will be able to educate students.

 

“Imagine if you are a science teacher and you have a lab set up in mind. You know that you can do it with 20 students and you have 20 stations in your lab, but suddenly you have 30 students, you have 35 students. It makes it more difficult to accomplish these lesson plans and hands on and participatory learning that you want to do,” Weitz said.

 

Weitz said school districts should be able to decide on their classroom’s sizes, but there needs to be a cap.

 

She mentioned that she read where Lundberg would work to repeal the law if it passed, and became an issue.

 

“Let’s not put legislation into place that is going to have the opportunity for that. Let’s go ahead and have legislation that from the start is setting everyone up for success and it doesn’t allow room for error,” Weitz said.