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Class Sizes Are Growing Faster Than Teaching Positions

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

As State Schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister holds town hall meetings across the state, she is likely to get questions about the state's continuing teacher shortage and the impact it is having on class sizes.

The state department of education doesn't gather specific data on class size, but the evidence suggests teachers are responsible for a growing number of students each year--more than the law would normally allow.

The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching positions in the 2015-16 school year was 42.410, a slight increase over the 42,170 from the prior year. During the same period, the number of students increased from 688,300 to 692,670. Oklahoma's pupil to teacher ratio is currently 16.3, which is slightly higher than the national average.

In a survey of school districts conducted by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association just before the start of the current school year, 85 percent of districts believed their K-5 classrooms would each have more than 20 students, which is supposed to be the limit.

State law puts these limits on class size:

Pre K - The number of children in an early childhood education class shall not exceed 20 w/ a Pre K assistant.

K-3 - A teacher shall be responsible for the instruction of a class that includes 20 students. The creation of an additional class should be created if the class size increases by 10 additional students...i.e. 30 students.

4-5 - The teacher shall be responsible for the instruction of a class that includes 20 students the creation of an additional class should be created if the class size increases by 16 students...i.e. 36 students.

Grades 6-12 - A teacher shall be responsible for the instruction of 140 students on any given six hour school day.

Schools that exceeded these limits were subject to fines, but in 2010, lawmakers decided to exempt schools from any such penalties, due to budget concerns.

During the 2016 legislative session, lawmakers tied the re-implementation of class size limits to specific financial goals, which, at present, would appear to be well out of reach.

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