Teachers Slam Seattle Schools' Proposal to Increase Class Size

Aug 14, 2013

Seattle public schools kicks off the new school year on Sept. 4 with a projected enrollment of 52,000 students—an increase of 4,600 students in the past five years.

But how best to accommodate all those students in the future has Seattle schools and the teacher’s union at odds.

Seattle Public Schools has already put in some short-term solutions to its growing student population by repurposing rooms and implementing portable classrooms.

But now the district is proposing increasing class sizes by two students in middle schools, and 10 students in high schools. That means fourth- and fifth-grade teachers would see 30 students. Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade teachers would see 32 students. And high school teachers would see 160 students.

Seattle educators, who are in the middle of contract negotiations with the district, don’t like the proposal.  

“I just think this is their first reaction to the overcrowdedness,” said Phyllis Campano, vice president of the teachers’ union. “We are committed to working with the district to look at some creative solutions, versus putting it on the kids’ backs.”  

Research shows lowering class size affects the quality of education, particularly among poor and minority students, according to Campano.

Campano says the union understands the financial constraints the district is under.

“But increasing (class size) is just going backwards,” she said.

The teachers’ union says it has made some progress in negotiations with the district. The two sides have managed to work out an issue over special education measures, the union said.

The teachers’ contract expires at the end of the month.