Atlanta school board says no to allowing larger classes

In a split vote, the Atlanta school board rejected an administration request to apply for a state waiver that would allow the district to exceed state rules on the number of students in a class.

Current Atlanta Public Schools average class sizes by school range from 12 to 27, according to board documents, but some classes are significantly larger.

The waiver rejection comes after the board prioritized smaller class sizes below teacher raises when approving the district’s budget in April, also in a split vote.

“At some point, I’d like a line drawn in the sand,” on the issue, board vice-chair Nancy Meister said before Monday’s vote.

Carstarphen said the administration is not ready to undertake a district-wide effort to reduce class sizes. Even some of the data underlying class size counts is inaccurate, she said.

“If we make changes right now we don’t have the opportunity to really prepare for the future,” she said.

The deadline for submitting the waiver request is this spring, Carstarphen said.

On Monday, the board accepted a request to apply for a separate waiver that would allow the district to deviate from state rules about the percentage of money spent on instruction versus other areas, such as administration.

The amount of money Atlanta’s school system dedicates to administration is among the highest in the nation when compared to other major cities, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

Unless a district has a waiver, state law requires that spending on instruction is 65 percent of a district’s total spending or that the percentage of spending devoted to instruction increases by 2 percent compared to the previous year.

It has been common for Georgia school districts to apply for class size and spending waivers. Atlanta has applied for and received both waivers in past years.

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