Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, is among more than 20 Democratic state representatives who are co-sponsoring House Bill 200, which would reduce the maximum class size in public schools by three.
If passed, House Bill 200 would reduce class sizes in kindergarten through third grade from 24 students to 21; from 28 to 25 in fourth grade; from 29 to 26 in fifth and sixth grades and from 31 to 28 in seventh through 12th grades.
“One of the things that educators know is that the smaller the class size, the better the quality of education our students receive in our public schools,” Minter said. “It makes good sense. It responds to one of the most frequent issues brought to us by our colleagues who teach in public schools.”
Minter, an educator herself at Western Kentucky University, said this bill mirrors what she has experienced in classrooms.
“You have a much better rapport with the students and a smaller classroom creates a more open environment for interactive learning,” Minter said “This is a good common sense bill and I hope that it will get a hearing in the education committee.”
Minter said constituents that have reached out to her have shown support for the bill.
For some, however, concern arises over the cost of the proposal. More funding would be needed to hire more educators to handle the extra classes the bill would create, and some believe districts’ already tight resources might be better allocated for other purposes.
Warren County Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton said that while he is philosophically in favor of reducing maximum class sizes, he feels that attracting more quality teachers into Kentucky and keeping them here is a bigger priority.
“Lowering class size requirements can be a tremendous benefit to our students and staff provided that there is adequate funding to cover the increased expense,” Clayton said in a statement regarding HB 200. “However, providing additional funding for competitive compensation in order to attract, hire and retain the highest quality of people to the education profession is far more valuable to the educational outcomes of our students.”
“Right now the biggest challenge is to hire and keep applicants,” Clayton said, adding that he hopes there will be an emphasis on attracting “quality people” to the state.
Rep. Steve Riley, R-Glasgow, a retired career educator who spent more than 31 years as a teacher, coach and administrator at Barren County High School, said he understands the instructional challenges that come from larger class sizes. But he said those issues have to be balanced against a district’s budgetary constraints.
“Just like anything else, you would have to look at what is ideal and if you can fit it in your budget, and is this idea more or less important than another idea that would help in those situations?” said Riley. “I think the bill has merit. Whether or not it is the best allocation for those resources, I think you’d have to make a judgment call. ...
“If you have less students in class, it means you would have to hire more teachers to teach the classes. Obviously, when you have a tight budget as Kentucky and a lot of other states have, you have to figure out what is the best allocation for the resources you have.”
Riley serves on the education committee that will oversee the future of the bill.
“We will have to look at all the different bills that have been filed and see which ones have a better chance to be successful,” said Riley. “I think it would be presumptuous of me right now to say this bill will or will not get a hearing before we get a chance to look at all the bills once they are filed.”
Rep. Steve Sheldon, R-Bowling Green, said he would prefer that decisions to reduce maximum class sizes be left on the local level.
“I would rather leave those decisions in their hands, local teachers and superintendents,” he said. “If somebody is going to demand that, it needs to come with funding to help. In its form, I wouldn’t do it, I would rather it be left up to local stakeholders.”