The teachers representative on the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board’s Finance Committee noted a discrepancy this week over class size guidelines in the district’s schools that could reduce the number of teachers required by the district.
Essentially, the guidelines promulgated by the administration were not in concert with the guidelines specified in the District 65 Educators’ Council’s (DEC) contract with the board, said Meg Krulee, the union's representative on the committee.
For most grades in the elementary schools, the administration’s guidelines were one or two students higher than the contract with DEC specified.
For example, in grades 1 and 2, the adminstration’s standards are for a maximum of 25 students per class, compared with the DEC contract of 23; grade 3 calls for 26 per class, vs. 25 in the DEC contract, and grades 4 and 5, 27 students per class vs. 25 in the DEC contract.
The difference is significant, as Lora Taira, the administration's chief information officer, whose department is responsible for determining teacher allocations, presented charts that suggested a cost savings of $900,000 for the year if the board were to increase the guidelines by two students per class, as some 15 fewer teachers would be required to handle projected enrollments.
Board member Katie Bailey, who as president of the board was involved in the contract negotiations, said that she was aware of the discrepancy, but said these were only guidelines, and “it was decided that we would keep these not the same.”
Taira said that the numbers used in her calculations were consistent with guidelines established by a committee several years ago.
Member Claudia Garrison, a former middle school teacher, said “it troubles me that we have class size guidelines and then a contract that’s different.”
Richard Rykhus, Finance Committee chair, said that the numbers are not “set in stone. They’re targets, goals, guidelines.”
Member Candance Chow warned the committee that an increase in class size could impact a number of people “who choose to move out of the district,” ostensibly because they would fear a reduction in the quality of education if the district’s classes were larger.
No decisions were made by the committee, as it is considering a number of budget management strategies, of which class size is but one.