To save the state money, new rules were passed to increase the capacity of classrooms to 25 students for all grades. Statute previously recommended that kindergarten through 3rd-grade classroom capacity be capped at 16, and 4th through 12th grade at 21. Those numbers help determine when the state needs to fund the construction of new schools to accommodate growth.
The change was made by the governor-appointed School Facilities Commission. Senator Chris Rothfuss serves on the legislature’s School Facilities Committee which he hopes will reverse what he sees as a short-sighted decision on the part of the governor’s commission.
“We have a few districts that were way over capacity based on the old calculation system. This little tweak solved that problem,” said Rothfuss. “It eliminated most of the over-capacity schools and school districts by just saying, ‘well, if we don’t calculate it the way that we are supposed to calculate it, it won’t be a problem anymore.’”
Rothfuss said while the change will save the state millions, it will hurt students by increasing class size beyond what research recommends. He also said the new rules are inconsistent with other statutes that determine districts’ operating budgets based on smaller-class sizes.
“With that change, those districts cannot possibly realize the aspiration of the funding model. It doesn't matter how much they want to. They don’t have the space. And that’s the real problem.”
Rothfuss has requested a report detailing which schools in the state are most likely to see an increase in class size as a result of the rule change.