by David Safier
Class size doesn't matter. How do I know? Mitt Romney and Matthew Ladner, formerly of the Goldwater Institute, tell me so.
Romney is a newcomer at this game, so let's go back to Matthew Ladner, circa 2009. Writing for G.I., he said we should pay great teachers — "rock stars," he likes to call them — six figure salaries. But he doesn't want to spend more money on education. In fact, he wants to spend less. The solution is to load enough students into the rock stars' classrooms that there's a net cut in spending.
Research shows . . . that students would be much better off if schools did let their most ineffective teachers go, and redistributed the students to more effective instructors. Teacher quality has been found to be 10- to 20-times more important than class size in achieving student learning gains. Schools could thereby cut their spending and improve student learning simultaneously.
I was an English teacher, but the math here is simple enough, even I can do it. An average Arizona teacher makes about $45,000. A teacher making a six figure salary would cost more than double that. If today's elementary teacher is seeing 35 kids in a class, the remaining rock stars would have 70 kids or more. But that shouldn't phase them, according to Ladner. They can continue to provide the same great education they were giving those 35 kids — which is already 10 more than any elementary school teacher should be responsible for, especially if the kids come to school with educational deficiencies.
But you know, he has a point. I mean, look, rock stars perform to thousands of people at a time. What's 70 or 80 kids? Piece of cake!
OBAMA AND CLASS SIZE NOTE: Obama made an unfortunate choice when he picked Arne Duncan as his Ed Supe. The man is barely on the neo-liberal side of conservative "education reform." Duncan has made similar "class size doesn't matter" statements. His might not be as blatant as Romney's, but Duncan makes it harder for the Obama campaign to draw a distinction.