Debate continues on student-teacher ratio in SC classrooms

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina's State Superintendent is under fire after last month he proposed controversial changes to the mandated student-teacher ratio in public schools. It's a proposal that has many teachers and educators furious and speaking out.

Parents, teachers and education lobbyists were out in force Wednesday to oppose an amendment they say will increase class sized and decrease the quality of education in South Carolina schools.

It's part of a law that allows school districts to have greater flexibility in how many teachers they are required to have. It's been on the books since 2007 when according to the Education First, education funding in the state was cut by 24 percent.

"We had the changes made when we were going through the great recession, and teachers understood there wasn't enough money to take care of all these things, and yes class sizes grew," said Jackie Hicks with the SC Education Association. "But that was just for a short period of time. We did not sign on that would be for an extended period of time."

Education advocacy groups say Superintendent Dr. Mick Zais went too far in proposing to eliminate maximum student-teacher ratios all together and requirements that all schools have guidance counselors, art teachers and PE Specialists among other things.

"I've recommended, let's give the superintendents the flexibility to assign their staff where they have the most impact on student learning," said Zais. "So in response we've heard these non-sensical claims that we'll have 50 students in a classroom."

Craig King with the Palmetto State Teachers Association said deleting staffing ratios in the classroom could result in public school professionals having an increased workload and that could result in teachers and administrators leaving the profession.

The SC State Board of Education decided not to approve Zais' recommendation leaving the bigger debate up to the general assemble as the staffing proviso expires in 2014.

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