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Should schools have more say in class size, teacher bonuses?

Staff Report • Feb 13, 2012 at 10:04 AM

The Johnson City and Washington county boards of education have passed resolutions opposing a plan from Gov. Bill Haslam to eliminate state-mandated average class sizes and allow local school systems to pay a bonus to top-performing teachers.

The governor is pushing passage of legislation to allow schools across the state to keep maximum class-size requirements while eliminating average class-size mandates for each school. Haslam said this change will give local districts more options in how they approach classroom instruction and teacher compensation.

Educators and school board officials, however, argue the change would harm classroom instruction. Joe Crabtree, president of the Johnson City Education Association and sixth-grade teacher at Indian Trail Middle School, told Johnson City school board members last week he believes the governor’s plan represents an attack on public education.

“Life has changed for teachers,” Crabtree said. “It’s no wonder for a lot of us it’s no longer the joy that we have seen over the years. It’s become very hostile.

“Teachers are hurting. Students are being affected, and now parents are taking notice.”

Crabtree told BOE members smaller, not larger, class sizes “are key to increasing our students’ achievement and our students’ growth.”

He also said doing away with state and local salary schedules now based on seniority and education would allow school systems to reward teachers at their discretion.

“Putting financial incentive on increased test scores will create competition, no matter how hard we try not to make that happen,” Crabtree said.

Like their colleagues on the Washington County board, Johnson City BOE members say they plan to voice their opposition to the governor’s plan to lawmakers when they meet in Nashville later this month for the Tennessee State School Board Association’s “Day on Capitol Hill.”

We want to hear from you on this issue. Should local school systems be given a greater say in class sizes and teacher bonuses?

Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com.

Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification. We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.

You also can go to www.johnsoncitypress.com to cast a vote in the online poll. Results of the poll, along with comments from readers, will appear on the Opinion page Feb. 21.

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