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Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 3.17.11




Ratios Matter

We cant ignore growing class sizes

By Rosco caron

EDITORS NOTE: These comments were spoken at the kickoff of the Strong Schools Eugene campaign at Kelly Middle School March 8.

I have spent the last quarter century teaching middle school. I taught in this school for the past five years. I loved being a teacher of middle school students. I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of hard-working, loving and courageous parents and kids.

We are here today because we have been going through the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression. These are extraordinary times. These are times that demand that responsible adults respond to the needs of their children and their communities. Thats why we are here.

The responsible adults in the community have responded in past years to save Eugene kids from the worst damage to the schools. The federal government helped all of the states, including Oregon, make ends meet as revenues plummeted.

Those federal dollars are not available to our state this year, but our states income is still way down. The crisis for schools and kids is still on. These are still extraordinary times.

Theres nothing left to give up if we want a decent educational opportunity for our children.

Weve already lost so very much during the years I have been a teacher. I was a teacher before Measure 5 passed and since it became law in 1990. Since then:

« We have experienced years of loss of programs and people: school nurses, counselors, shop programs, numerous other elective programs, loss of foreign language programs, art programs, and music programs.

« We have experienced a number of years of teachers having their wages frozen, taking wage cuts, and increasing their monthly insurance payments and out-of-pocket payments.

« We have experienced regular increases in class size. This is the toughest. For those who think it makes little difference, Im here to tell you that ratios matter: think of what happens if you go into a big home improvement store and they only have one or two staff members available to help you. Do you get the best level of service? Do you wind up wandering around trying to figure it out on your own?

Ratios matter. Do you think many private schools that wealthy families send their kids to have 38 students in a class? No. There are half that many kids in the classroom because student-to-teacher-ratios matter. In those classrooms the parents know their kids will have the assistance they need when they need it. They dont have to wander around the store trying to figure it out on their own.

Theres an economic crisis going on that was not caused by 8-year-old kids. Their parents did not cause it. School bus drivers did not cause it. Kindergarten teachers did not cause it.

These are extraordinary times. These are the times when history compels responsible adults to help the next generation of students in their community to have a decent education. It is up to all of us to rise to the occasion. We must vote yes in May.

 

Roscoe Caron recently retired after teaching in local middle schools for almost 25 years. He and Jim Garcia were co-founders in 1996 of the Ganas project, linking Latino middle school students with UO MEChA students.