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It looks like San Diego Unified will find jobs for all of those displaced teachers after all: Cutting class sizes down to 15 students per teacher in 25 schools is expected to create 116 teaching jobs, according to a preliminary estimate from the human resources department.
The smaller classes are being funded using federal stimulus dollars earmarked for helping disadvantaged children and double as a way to place dozens of elementary school teachers who have nowhere to go after jobs were eliminated in the school district. Using a back-of-the-envelope calculation, those tiny classes, combined with other fixes, such as retraining teachers to work in special education, look like they will provide positions for all of the estimated 185 displaced teachers, who would otherwise pose a budget problem because they are still being paid even if schools don’t have jobs for them.
That’s good news for the San Diego Unified budget, but not everyone agrees that it’s good news for reforming schools. Though the smaller classes are popular with parents and principals, using the stimulus money to pay for smaller classes has been criticized as a reform that is driven primarily by staffing needs, rather than research, which is mixed on the impacts of class size.
“Are they doing what we would say is the most effective thing? No,” said Amy Wilkins, vice president of government affairs for the advocacy group Education Trust. She added, “If San Diego is doing this to solve an employment problem for teachers, that’s where they run the risk” of not putting students first.
Human resources staffers cautioned that this is a preliminary estimate, and as we all know, numbers have a habit of changing in San Diego Unified. I’ll update the blog if the numbers shift.