Democrats seek smaller class sizes in elementary schools

THE NEWS TRIBUNE (TACOMA)January 23, 2014 

The Legislature has already promised to reduce class size in the lower grades to just 17 students per class by the 2017 school year.

Now some Democrats want to double down on that promise by laying out a schedule for implementation while also reducing the sizes of the upper grades.

But Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, and Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, didn't suggest a funding source for the legislation that they said would cost just more than $2 billion, mirror a task force's recommendations, and address a court mandate to amply fund schools.

None of the changes they want to make would affect the current two-year budget period, in which lawmakers dedicated only enough money to affect high-poverty kindergarten and first grade classrooms -- where class sizes must shrink to 20.3 students.

The two lawmakers' proposal would explain how to phase in a 2010 law calling for an average of no more than 17 students per class in kindergarten through third grade. It would also add that higher grades would be funded at a level of 25 students.

It would require districts to meet those standards once the Legislature funds more teachers. But many districts don't have the building capacity for more classrooms even if they had more teachers, so the proposal would allow those schools to devote the money to other school employees working with students.

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