by: Frank Field Updated:
SEATTLE - Seattle teachers are demonstrating tonight in hopes of stopping a plan to increase class sizes in Seattle Public Schools. The rally at Franklin High drew about 75 teachers who complain that a district proposal to increase the average class size by two students is moving in the wrong direction.
Theo Moriarity teaches seventh grade at Hamilton International School, one of Seattle's most crowded. He already has 36 per class and sees students feeling like nobody cares about them.
"It doesn't speak to a value that we appreciate students in our classrooms. That they're just a place to cut budgets and cram kids rather than actually invest in our future," he said.
We looked at how Seattle compares with other districts and state averages.
The state average is 28 elementary students and 31 middle and high schoolers per class.
Bellevue is below that with 22 and 28 students at each level.
Northshore averages 24 and 28 students at each level.
Seattle already has more elementary students per class with 28, and is just under average with 30 students per class in the upper grades.
Teachers say adding more students will mean more time spent on classroom management, behavioral problems and discipline - and less time actually teaching.
Marian Wagner, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Salmon Bay K-8 says, "Your chances of finding the nuances of all the humans that you're raising in the classroom, it decreases. You'll find some of them, you'll miss some. And we want every child to succeed."
In upper grades, teachers have more serious discipline problems and see students grappling with outside pressures like sexual identity, problems at home, drugs – all affecting school. Moriarity worries what will happen to kids having a hard time if each teacher has more students.
"Oftentimes they come to teachers, and when they don't have a relationship because of that lack of time they're not gonna go to anyone and I don't think we wanna leave those kids alone," Moriarity said.
Seattle Schools issued a statement this afternoon saying: "Enrollment in Seattle Public Schools has increased dramatically… An increase to the class size cap is one of a number of solutions we are exploring to ensure that we can accommodate all students…. "
The teachers union says this issue should be settled outside contract talks since the proposal won't take effect until next year.
Phyllis Campano, vice president of the Seattle Education Association said, "There's a whole year for us to sit down and find creative solutions to the crowded - to some of the crowded school that we have."
Seattle teachers joined a statewide walkout over this issue in the early 1990s. There are three weeks to go before the current contract is up and teachers are hopeful they can resolve this before the contract expires in three weeks.