Reduce class sizes

Carroll County: Commissioners should restore education budget cuts to improve pupil-teacher ratios.

May 13, 1999

WITH THE school construction agenda apparently resolved by the Carroll County commissioners and school board, now's the time to address a more important education issue: reducing class size to improve instruction.

The proposed Carroll County budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 allocates $92.4 million for the school system operating budget. That's about $2.8 million less than the school board requested.

The first cuts will likely fall on plans to put more teachers in the schools, delaying a necessary reduction in the size of classes.

Superintendent William H. Hyde notes that Carroll's pupil-teacher ratio is the highest in Maryland, according to preliminary State Department of Education figures. Carroll is regularly near the bottom of counties in per-pupil spending.

There's a correlation here. There are also proven links between smaller class sizes, especially in the initial grades, and long-term academic achievement.

Carroll performs well on statewide tests, to be sure. But a little more time for students to ask questions and to get extra classroom help, more classroom discussions instead of large lecture halls -- these would be valuable improvements for the public education system.

It might be understandable if the commissioners cut the school construction budget as a symbol of their displeasure with recent project overruns and snafus. They did not.

Educators and parents generally agree that a lower pupil-teacher ratio furthers more learning in the classroom. Citizens told the commissioners this month that they wanted full funding of the school budget request, primarily to reduce class sizes.

The commissioners should approve the extra money -- and assure that the system uses it for the designated purpose.

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