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August 27, 2008 8:03 PM   Subscribe

How many students are allowed to be crammed into a California public-elementary classroom?

My wife is a first-year teacher at a public elementary school in the Bay Area. She's teaching 4th grade and has 40 students on her roll. It seems odd to me that California is so short of teachers (or so short of funds to hire teachers) that they put so many students in one class . She doesn't even have enough desks to support that many children. Unfortunately the other two 4th grade classes have even more (42 students each).

Since we both just moved to California, we are unfamiliar with the California public-school regulations.

Is it common in California public schools to have 40+ students in an elementary classroom?

What California state laws, if any, exist that regulate the number of students allowed in a public-elementary classroom?
posted by metacort to Law & Government (10 answers total)
Welcome to California.

You'll probably get many answers to this question, but Proposition 13 (1978) is one of the many reasons why California's seemingly-"local" infrastructure - from schools to fire prevention to libraries - is in such poor shape, and out of sync with our role as a globally-significant region and economy.
posted by mdonley at 8:18 PM on August 27, 2008

Also, here's the state Department of Education page on class-size reduction.
posted by mdonley at 8:20 PM on August 27, 2008

I got nothing but anecdotes for you. My daughter is in a 30-student kindergarten class which spends an hour and a half combined with another class. Yes, a combined total of 60 kids for an hour and a half. The principal of my daughter's school said it was due to the current budget mess and that it was a temporary thing.

I've looked at it from a number of angles and I can't fathom how it's saving anybody time, money or effort.
posted by lekvar at 8:54 PM on August 27, 2008

Your wife might want to ask her union representative what the deal is.
posted by metahawk at 9:59 PM on August 27, 2008

Different school districts will have different funding sources specifically for class size reduction. And Union contracts will have an influence. And the size limits will vary by grade level. I'm somewhat familiar with Berkeley schools, and AFAIK the city passed a parcel tax to keep K-5 levels below 24. In the West Contra Costa district (where I teach HS) the HS limit is 28. More students can be enrolled in the class, but the teacher is then paid more.

For a definitive answer have your wife contact her union rep.
posted by TDIpod at 10:02 PM on August 27, 2008

In the West Contra Costa district (where I teach HS) the HS limit is 28. More students can be enrolled in the class, but the teacher is then paid more.

Wait, is the issue better education for students, or not hurting teachers' feelings?
posted by gjc at 6:10 AM on August 28, 2008

Response by poster: My wife is going to consult with her union rep to find out more. My wife gets paid more for every day her class level is over 32 students. But I agree with gjc, it's not about her getting paid more. If one of my children were in a class of 40+ students and they didn't even have a desk to sit at, I'd be royally upset.
posted by metacort at 10:17 AM on August 28, 2008

As a California native, this is not remotely surprising to me. I saw this headline and before I even clicked, I thought, "40 students."
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:40 PM on August 28, 2008

I have to admit that my anecdote above may be way off base. I dropped my daughter off today while the combined session was taking place and there couldn't have been more than 40 students; probably more like 30. I must have misinterpreted what the principal was saying before.

So. No valid input from me. But I'd be very curious to hear what your wife's union rep has to say. Would you be kind enough to post the response here or MeMail me?
posted by lekvar at 2:03 PM on August 28, 2008

Response by poster: It might take a week or so, but I'll post what the union rep says. BTW another student was added to my wife's class today, which means 125 4th grade students are split up in 3 classes.
posted by metacort at 11:41 PM on August 28, 2008

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