MEA: Maine suffering from “ballooning class sizes.” Really? (Part 2)

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Yesterday, I took a look at the Maine Education Association’s claims that class sizes in Maine are “ballooning.”  The truth, as the U.S. D.O.E., Education Week, and others have found, is that Maine has the smallest class sizes in America.

A new report from Education Week, posted online May 18, confirms these findings. A subscription is required to access the entire report, but the gist of it is that “the waves of pink slips districts are now sending across the country” are coming as a result, the data suggests, of “an increase in teacher hiring in recent years.”

According to the report, data from the National Education Association and U.S. D.O.E. suggests that “from 1999-2000 to 2007-08, student enrollment increased from 46.6 million to 48.9 million, an increase of about 5 percent. The number of K-12 classroom teachers during that time period rose from 2.89 million to 3.2 million, an increase of 11 percent.”

The report goes on to identify 14 states which added teaching staff at a time when school enrollments were actually dropping. Maine, as the Education Week graphic below illustrates, saw a 6.2% drop in school enrollments from 1999-2000 to 2007-2008 (the fourth largest drop in the nation, according to Education Week), yet grew the number of teachers in its schools by 1.3 percent.

With massive budget shortfalls looming, the high costs of Maine’s smallest-in-the-nation class sizes is bound to be an election-year issue.  It will be interesting to track how candidates handle the issue. Increasing class sizes is never politically popular, even when the class sizes you are proposing to increase are the smallest in the country.