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Comstock to Host Meeting on Class Sizes

Saturday gathering at McLean Community Center will highlight schools bills by Del. Barbara Comstock.

As enrollment in Fairfax County Public Schools sees rapid growth — a trend expected to continue for at least the next five years — so do class sizes, a sensitive issue with parents and educators sometimes dealing with upwards of 30 children in a single classroom.

The issue is one Del. Barbara Comstock (R-34th) aims to address through a number of schools bills she's introducing this session, which she'll discuss with constituents at 9 a.m. Saturday in a town hall style meeting in McLean.

HB 1556 would change state code so class size would be calculated on a schoolwide — not divisionwide — basis.

The current law's maximum enrollment for classes with a single teacher to 24 students for kindergarten, 30 in grades 1 through 3, 35 in grades 4 through 6 and 24 in grade 6 through 12 English classes.

But it allows school systems to use the average of class sizes across its entire division, instead of at individual schools; at Wolftrap Elementary School in Vienna, parent Kim Farrell wrote in an email to Patch, some classes have 37 students in them.

Comstock's bill would change the language of the law from "divisionwide" to "schoolwide," which would force the system to maintain those class averages on a school-by-school basis.

The bill is being reviewed by the Standards of Quality subcommittee of the House's Education Committee.

Comstock will also discuss several other bills, including:

HB 1309: Makes local school boards responsible for setting the system's opening date and eliminating a state requirement that mandates school starts after Labor Day, known as the Kings Dominion law, unless they get a waiver from the Virginia Board of Education.

Several bills on this issue have been filed in the Virginia General Assembly in recent years, but  except for one signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2011 that exempted systems from the law only if a neighboring jurisdiction had received a waiver.

The Education Committee of the McLean Citizens Association has long advocated giving Fairfax County the right to open its schools before Labor Day.

HB 1700: Would require that 75 percent of students admitted and enrolled at Virginia's public colleges and universities — except for the Virginia Military Institute, Norfolk State University and Virginia State University — are from Virginia.

Saturday's meeting with Barbara Comstock, who represents parts of McLean, Tysons and Vienna, begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at the McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Drive, McLean.

Rob Jackson January 20, 2013 at 03:56 PM
Before we put more "Other People's Money" into public higher education, let's undertake an extensive look into how Virginia's public colleges and universities similar to what was done with respect to the University of Texas at Austin. That study found, "Recently released preliminary data from the University of Texas strongly suggest that the state of Texas could move towards making college more affordable by moderately increasing faculty emphasis on teaching. Looking only at the UT Austin campus, if the 80 percent of the faculty with the lowest teaching loads were to teach just half as much as the 20 percent with the highest loads, and if the savings were dedicated to tuition reduction, tuition could be cut by more than half (or, alternatively, state appropriations could be reduced even more—by as much as 75 percent). Moreover, other data suggest a strategy of reemphasizing the importance of the undergraduate teaching function can be done without importantly reducing outside research funding or productivity." http://www.centerforcollegeaffordability.org/uploads/Faculty_Productivity_UT-Austin_report.pdf Dollars to donuts, we'd find the very same crap in the Old Dominion's public colleges & universities.
Rob Jackson January 20, 2013 at 03:58 PM
Other key findings from the Texas study included: 20 percent of UT Austin faculty are teaching 57 percent of student credit hours. They also generate 18 percent of the campus’s research funding. This suggests that these faculty are not jeopardizing their status as researchers by assuming such a high level of teaching responsibility.  Conversely, the least productive 20 percent of faculty teach only 2 percent of all student credit hours and generate a disproportionately smaller percentage of external research funding than do other faculty segments.  Research grant funds go almost entirely (99.8 percent) to a small minority (20 percent) of the faculty; only 2 percent of the faculty conduct 57 percent of funded research.  Non-tenured track faculty teach a majority of undergraduate enrollments and a surprising 31 percent of graduate enrollments.  The most active researchers teach nearly the average of all faculty; increasing teaching loads of others would trivially impact outside research support.
J. Jay Volkert January 20, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Texas is not a role model for Virginias to aspire to. See following statistics: From fiscal years 2002 to 2006, average tuition and fees at public universities increased 61.4%. Average tuition and fees at community colleges increased 51.3%. • From fiscal years 2002 to 2007, the Texas state budget was cut in terms of real dollar, per-student funding for universities by 19.92%; for community colleges the per-student cut was 35.29%. • California has nine nationally recognized research institutions; New York has seven; Pennsylvania has four; while Texas, the second most populous state in the nation, has only three. • Out of Texas’ 145 public and private higher education institutions, only one private institution, Rice University, ranked among the nation’s top 50. • The number of students attending Texas colleges and universities increased by 23.6% from Fall 1999 to Fall 2005 with the highest growth in community and technical colleges. Source: Texas Controller of Public Accounts
Rob Jackson January 20, 2013 at 08:13 PM
Mr. Volkert, your retort ignores the report. It addresses the problems with the lack of correlation between teaching loads and research projects and compensation. All you do is quote data about tax dollar support for schools. What about output? What about equity for students, parents, other faculty? What happened to state funding for colleges and universities in Pennsylvania? California? New York? What happened to the incomes of the residents of those states? Of Virginia residents? Why do you believe taxpayers need to hold the public sector harmless? You seem pretty cavalier with other people's money. Why don't you believe Virginia's colleges' and universities' efficiencies should be examined before taxpayers pay more?
J. Jay Volkert January 20, 2013 at 09:48 PM
Mr. Jackson It would be great to have the data you bring into question and the studies you desire. I still think comparing Virginia and Texas is not useful.

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