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School District's Failed Equity Policy Promotes Increased Class Sizes

By Ann Maggio Thanawalla

Last week the District announced a plan to cut 23 teachers to “save” $2.3 million from its more than $180 million annual budget that serves just over 9,000 students.

The excuse used to muzzle discussion on lowering class sizes was provided by recently re-elected board member, Richard

He explained the District must remain committed to aspirational programs and the board’s agreement to fund those priorities (over the proven success of smaller class sizes) to achieve said goals of improved student equity and achievement.

Smaller class size policy is an abundantly well documented and proven reform solution to increase successful outcomes for all students.

So why must the SMMUSD Board consistently choose to cut teachers in favor of spending millions of salary dollars on new, expensive,
unproven “check the box” programs with little or no data efficacy to back them up?

Students of color, those with disabilities, English language learners and economically disadvantaged students are consistently stuck in the achievement/opportunity gap.

Why resist what works -- smaller class sizes -- in favor of the next best thing sold under the right branding to make the District appear progressive while getting nowhere?

Several of the Board’s aspirational programs arrived via a parade of well-paid consultants. Each year more money is handed over to consultants, money that should fund more teachers and smaller class sizes.

It seems the board’s egos give them license to prioritize one sisyphean method after another.

We can no longer stand by after decades of dollars allocated toward wishful thinking over a proven method -- smaller class sizes -- to close our visible learning gaps, gaps that are leaving some students unprepared for college and/or a career.

The SMMUSD should immediately amend policy to shrink all class sizes based on factual evidence of the SMMUSD tax base and enrollment trends and projections.

Ann Maggio Thanawalla is an SMMUSD Parent and Chair of SMMUSD CLASS SIZE MATTERS

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