Letter in Support of Op-ed on Class Size

Reduce class sizes and students will benefit

By Patricia Melnyk | Published March 8 by The Montreal Gazette in response to the March 4th Op-ed, “Where are the reductions in class sizes that we were promised?

In his opinion piece, Robert Green raises many excellent points on reducing class sizes. His question on whether or not funding has been made available to school boards for this purpose – and if so, where that money has gone – is a critical one.

As a former employee of a school board, I have seen the poor allocation of funds and thought that this money could be put to much better use in the public school system rather than wasted on bureaucracy. Accountability is a key issue that must be addressed. Working as a teacher at a French high school in Pointe Claire, I have noticed that schools have very tight budgets and could benefit from class-size reductions – particularly in classes that contain special-needs students and those with behavioural challenges.

Mr. Green also indicates that these class-size reductions are only being extended up to the second year of high school. I believe they should continue right up to the graduating year. This is a crucial time in these students’ lives to develop and reinforce skills that they will desperately need in CEGEP and university.

Another point Mr. Green makes is that “English school boards have been losing students to their French counterparts” and this may have resulted in increased class sizes in French schools. One of my classes this year has 38 students. Count me as one of those many teachers Mr. Green refers to who would gladly give up being compensated for teaching oversized classes. Having fewer students in a classroom would enable me to forge a genuine connection with my students.

Finally, if the university students’ mandate to lower tuition (or abolish it entirely) would have been accepted, where would the money have come from to finance universities? From an already-stretched-to-the-limit public school system? It’s the young people learning the basics who are suffering from a serious lack of funding and classroom overcrowding. I’d like to propose that some of the money raised with the $70-per-year increase in university tuition be used to bolster funding for public schools in all sectors from K-11.

Students really need to learn and reinforce basic skills, to feel a sense of belonging in the classroom, to enjoy the process of learning itself. How can they do so when they are like sardines crammed into a can whose lid keeps tightening?

MT4C Editor’s note: While it is certainly important to call for reinvestment in our schools, this should not come at the expense of other segments of the public sector or socially productive goals like lowering tuition. As IRIS has documented since 2000 the Quebec government has offered over $5 billion in tax cuts that have primarilly benefit banks, corporations and the rich. Rolling back these senseless tax-cuts would be a far better way of raising funds to improve our social programs.

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