Small class size recommended for Pre-K, AISD wants more funding

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — To improve pre-kindergarten education, Texas schools should keep class sizes small and student-teacher ratios low, according to a newly released state report.

The study, conducted by the Texas Education Agency and the Department of Family and Protective Services, recommended a limit of 22 children and a student-teacher ratio of 11-to-1 for pre-kindergarten classes.

Officials with local education advocacy groups stress the importance of Pre-K.

“The research shows very clearly that Pre-K is an effective way to get kids ready for kindergarten and off on a strong path in school,” said Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children. “We need manageable sized classroom and we do need to make sure that teachers have enough time with each child and the way to do that is to ensure that we have manageable teacher child ratios as well.”

For the Austin Independent School District, it all depends on the age.

“The 11-to-1 ratio they are recommending does not fit what we do for four year olds, but it’s well within the ratio for what we do for three year olds, so we would be really excited about them funding that for four year olds,” said Jacquie Porter, AISD Director of Early Childhood.

Unless the state grants more funding for a longer period of time, Porter says the district foots the bill for an extra teacher in the classroom..

“A teacher assistant with benefits makes about $35,000. If you multiply that by our 200 classrooms that could be a heavy lift,” Porter said.

The report was mandated by a 2015 law championed by Gov. Greg Abbott that created a $118 million pre-kindergarten grant program. The findings are based on a review of national research as well as observations in classrooms across the state.

While state law establishes a limit of 22 students per class for kindergarten through fourth grade, there is no statewide standard for Pre-k class size or student-teacher ratios. During the 2015 legislative session lawmakers recognized the importance of Pre-K student-teacher ratios by requiring districts receiving HB 4 grants to attempt to provide a teacher for every 11 pre-k students. Now,  AISD and groups like Texans Care for Children hope lawmakers make a change the next session and realize that size matters.
“We would love to have the state put that into law, and then fund it,” Porter said.

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