English-Speaking Students in Phoenix School District Getting Screwed by Law, Funding Cuts

Your south Phoenix kindergartener speaks perfect English?

That's her classroom over there -- the one with the tired-looking teacher and so many kids that you can't see the carpet.

According to an article by the Cronkite News Service's Jolie McCullough, published today in the East Valley Tribune, English speakers are being screwed out of a decent experience because of class sizes of up to 35 students. An optimally sized class contains 25 students per teacher.

Spanish speakers enjoy a more reasonable teacher-student ratio because of state law and the quirks of budget cuts, McCullough reports.

The state's crackdown on immigration has taken a toll on schools in the Alhambra, Balsz and Cartwright elementary districts, each of which have a 70-percent Hispanic enrollment, the article says. As enrollment at the districts' schools falls, so does the state funding for teachers and classroom space.

However, the law restricts English Language Learners to classes with no more than 23 to 28 students, depending on the students' proficiency. English-speaking students get crammed in like sardines because they don't have the same legal protection.

We've seen kindergarten classes with 20 kids that looked tough to handle -- 35 sounds ridiculous. That can't be a very good experience for either the teacher or the students.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern