We Are Not Alone #25 — Class Size and Segregation Edition

I’ve written about the Student Achievement Guaranty in Education (SAGE) as an underfunded mandate, and noted the trend toward increasing class sizes around the state, especially but not exclusively in districts where referenda have failed.  A report from Verona shows how vulnerable this proven educational practice is —  even in growing districts — under our broken system.

We all know that declining enrollment districts have been hit hard, but despite adding 100 students this year, Verona is considering dropping out or getting kicked out of SAGE, of denying their students the benefits of small classes in the early grades.

Verona is having troubles with the new strictness on the 15/1 ratio, and having troubles paying to keep this ratio out of general operating funds.  If they drop or lose SAGE, they will lose $850,000, but to comply with the rules would mean adding classes at an additional cost of $430,000. Even without the SAGE issue, Verona was looking at $600,000 in cuts for 2009-10. What’s a district to do?

Segregation is one very unfortunate solution.  The way this is reported is scary and not 100% accurate:

One choice would be to group low-income students at a couple schools and designate those as SAGE sites, as many districts – including Madison – already do.

SAGE contracts are limited and in recent years MMSD has cut local funds for class size reduction and moved their limited contracts to high poverty schools.  Madison has not embraced an affirmative policy of economic segregation and still gives some attention to seeking desegregation when assigning students.

Madison has also not embraced a policy of affirmative desegregation and I’ve heard no concern that the Third Friday Count showed Glendale at 80% low income, while the adjoining attendance area for Elvehjem is 25% low income.

The Equity Task Force asked the Board to consider having an annual report on economic segregation in schools and in class assignment.  They have never discussed this proposal  in an open meeting.

Like class size reduction, socio-economic diversity has yeilded positive achievement results.  These are becoming either-or-choices, when we all know we should do both.

Thomas J. Mertz

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Filed under "education finance", Best Practices, Budget, education, Equity, finance, Local News, Referenda, referendum, School Finance, Uncategorized, We Are Not Alone

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