State representative says larger classes should equal more pay

OKLAHOMA - There are 32 6th graders in Rachel McNear’s reading and language class.

Desks are crammed right to the edge of her classroom at Oakridge Elementary in Moore.

“I don’t get to reach everyone, like I did before. I don’t get to meet with them in small groups, like I did before, or one on one,” McNear said.

State Representative Todd Russ has filed a bill that would funnel more money to teachers, like McNear, with oversized classrooms.

“My bill simply gives a little bit of a bump in pay for those teachers that are having to pick up that extra load,” Russ said.

House Bill 1415 would require districts to pay teachers $1,000 extra per student over the cap, with a limit of $5,000 per teacher per year.

“I don’t think there’s a teacher out there that wouldn’t be grateful to have $5,000 for an oversize classroom,” Russ said.

House Bill 1017, passed back in 1990, set class limits at 20 students per class for kindergarten through 6th grade.

Over time, those class sizes have been growing with the state waiving the fines districts could incur for going over that.

“For here, it would be a financial hardship on us,” said Moore Superintendent Dr. Robert Romines.

Romines said, if House Bill 1415 passes, it could cost his district almost $2 million.

“I don’t have an extra $2 million lying around to fund an initiative like this. If I did, I’d be hiring more teachers to reduce class size across this school district,” Romines said.

Some education professionals said, while they appreciate the effort, House Bill 1415 would just be putting a band-aid on the larger problem of funding for education.

“It seems like, every year, here we go again, another short-term solution. And, we really need to be thinking long-term,” said Ann Caine with the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.

McNear said she would prefer a smaller class size over extra pay.

Russ said he just doesn’t believe they’ll be able to fund education the way they want to be funded this year.

So, he said he’s thinking outside the box on some smaller fixes.

And, he said his bill is no way meant to replace teacher pay raises across the board.