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Seattle Teachers Balk At District's Proposal To Increase Class Sizes

Flickr Photo/sidewalk flying (CC BY-NC-ND)

Class size appears to be the main sticking point between Seattle School District and its teachers’ union as they bargain a new, three-year contract before school is scheduled to start next month.

Seattle Education Association President Jonathan Knapp says the district’s latest proposal, made last week, would increase class sizes in Seattle by two students per class in grades four through twelve.That would create average class sizes of 30 students in fourth and fifth grades, and 32 students in grades six through 12. Class sizes in grades one through three would remain the same.

Knapp says a survey by the National Education Association earlier this year found Washington state has the fourth-largest average class size in the nation.

“To have the biggest school district in the state now being an advocate for higher class sizes is just not moving in the right direction for Washington state or for Seattle,” Knapp said.

Seattle Public Schools spokeswoman Teresa Wippel said the problem is that student enrollment in the district has grown faster than classroom capacity. "So it’s a balancing act for us to try to figure out how to make sure that we have room for those students until we can bring our new buildings or our remodeled buildings online,” Wippel said.

Wippel said it’s standard for the district to still be negotiating with teachers this late in the summer.

But Knapp says the union is very concerned with the status of talks – especially when it comes to class size.

Year started with KUOW: 2008