Revenue falls, but student-teacher ratio improves

Tue, 02/03/2009 - 4:43pm
By: Ben Nelms

By Ben Nelms and Cal Beverly

As the Fayette County School System grapples with an upcoming deficit of between $11.7 million and $14.5 million out of a $197 million yearly budget, personnel cuts are being considered.

According to the system’s own accounting, the student-teacher ratio — the number of students divided by the number of teachers — has actually improved during the past three years.

With a ratio of 13.78 in October 2005 and a ratio of 13.70 in January 2009, that means that there are fewer students in a Fayette County classroom per teacher now than there were more than three years ago, when the system was not facing a money crunch, according to figures from the school system.

The figures also demonstrate that the system theoretically could lay off upwards of 100 teachers and still maintain a student-teacher ratio of under 15-to-1, well within the state average.

The student-teacher ratio went from 13.78 in 2005, down to 13.71 in 2006, down farther to 13.56 in 2007 and back up slightly to 13.63 in October 2008.

A lower student-to-teacher ratio is generally considered to be a desirable goal in education.

The state average for all school systems is around one teacher for every 14 students as of 2007, the last year for which statistics have been released, according to Dana Tofig of the Ga. Department of Education.

The local figures show that the system pays 60 more teachers this year to teach an additional 701 students, compared to October 2005.

In October 2005, the system employed 1,562 teachers. In January 2009, the system has 1,622 teachers, same as last October.

The high-water mark for teachers and students was October 2007, when the system paid 1,649 teachers to instruct 22,367 students.

The Citizen requested and obtained information relating to student enrollment and the number of classroom teachers employed for 2005-2008. School system staff also provided those numbers for January 2009.

Dr. Reanee Ellis, director of human resources, said the teacher count is based on data contained in the relevant Active Employee Summary Sections of the Certified/Classified Personnel Information (CPI) Report submitted annually to the Georgia Department of Education.

The data shows that the number of teachers increased during the 2005-2007 school years as the number of students increased. The number of teachers decreased in 2008, corresponding to a decrease in student population.

Teacher/student data supplied by the school system showed:

• October 2005 — 1,562 teachers to 21,531 students.

• October 2006 — 1,625 teachers to 22,291 students.

• October 2007 — 1,649 teachers to 22,367 students.

• October 2008 — 1,622 teachers to 22,108 students.

• Jan. 23, 2009 — 1,622 teachers to 22,232 students.

The overall teacher/student ratio for the period ranged from 1:13.56 to 1:13.78. System-wide ratios, however, are not considered by the local system to be a benchmark because some classrooms, such as special education classes, have a much lower required teacher/student ratio.

Ellis in the information supplied also noted several factors she said impacted staffing allocations.

“The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, required school districts to ensure that all teachers of core content academic subjects were not only certified to teach the subjects but also ‘highly qualified’ to teach the subjects,” Ellis said. “In some cases, school districts, including the Fayette County School District, had to employ additional staff to meet this mandate.”

Ellis said that in 2006 the state school board amended Rule 160-5-.08 that presented challenges for school systems in Georgia.

“(The amendment) resulted in a reduction of maximum class sizes and eliminated the ability for school systems to be in compliance with maximum class size requirements by using a system averaging formula in some cases,” Ellis said. “With the requirement to meet the lowered class size requirements came the additional burden of hiring additional teachers for classes that exceeded those newly established limits.”

Another change occurred in 2007 with passage of the Special Needs Scholarship Act, Ellis said. Under Senate Bill 10, parents were essentially given the opportunity to withdraw their children from public schools and enroll them in private schools.

“We had no way of knowing how many parents would take advantage of this opportunity when projections for the upcoming school year were made. In fact, we would not have any way to estimate this during any school year,” Ellis said.

The number of teachers and, more significantly, the number of school system employees, their benefits and a variety of ways to reduce spending have been and continue to be in the forefront of discussions held during school board meetings due to the economic recession.

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office in January projected that the recession and increased unemployment will continue well into 2010. If correct, the current revenue problems experienced by the school board and other local tax levying entities will only worsen.

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Submitted by hsh87 on Wed, 02/04/2009 - 7:04pm.

First of all, they ARE really misleading the readers here and I also saw this on the wsbtv website where Channel 2 news was informed the same thing. I am getting so fed up with all the lies - Fayette county let's face it - those in the county office holding the cushy jobs, making the bigs bucks, making decisions behind a desk without entering the field will never go - they NEED to start at the top and get rid of non-necessary jobs but it will never happen unless we can stop this nonsense - PLEASE leave our teachers alone - yes, they already have it hard and no there is not 1 school in Fayette county with 13:1 ratios except as stated already, special needs - and another comment from another article stated the overpopulation of vice principles - another good area to cut - they already don't have enough to do, so they go looking for things to do. When are they going to realize all these stupid decisions are affecting the kids the most - oh nevermind, they won't because of the almighty dollar!

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Wed, 02/04/2009 - 9:12pm.

The state of Georgia's 2008 audit of the FCBOE found that our school system employs 182 special ed teachers.

In a "worst case" scenario (i.e. only 182 special ed students in the county and a 1:1 teacher-student ratio, then the ratio of teachers to students becomes 1:15.31
Palin-Nugent 2012

Submitted by PTCMomma on Wed, 02/04/2009 - 9:29am.

Special ed classrooms ratios even vary wildly. Up until 2 years ago, there was a student at Whitewater who had a 1:1 ratio. He had his own teacher, NOT AN AIDE/PARAPRO! The year after he left, she went back to a class of 8-10.

Mom to 3 (and all of their friends, who love to hang out at my house-- LOVE THAT, almost always know where they are!!!)

Submitted by wildcat on Wed, 02/04/2009 - 10:04pm.

I don't know about a spec ed kid that had his own spec ed teacher, but I do know about the spec ed kid that his own REGULAR ed teacher!

Submitted by Melungeon on Wed, 02/04/2009 - 9:28am.

As one of my economics professors once noted, "people use statistics like a drunk uses a lamppost ... for support rather than illumination." Ask any teacher about the validity of these "truths" and the almost universal response will be looks of disbelief and laughter. Having been associated for years with many of the teachers in Fayette county, I've heard the horror stories of the conditions under which they work on a regular basis ... too many students and not enough time to do their primary job of teaching. Classroom sizes of 25 – 30 are the norm (not the exception) regardless of whatever statistical sleight of hand was used to generate a differing opinion (and if you knew the word is "sleight" rather than "slight" ... thank a teacher). It is readily apparent that these deceptively skewed numbers will ultimately be used to justify the existence of too many cushy jobs at the county office, many of which were created for failed teachers who couldn’t cut it in the classroom. And the salaries of many of these "rear area" cronies? Much more than the front-line teacher who interfaces with and educates our own children on a daily basis. Consolidating tasks and reducing jobs at the county level will, in most cases, provide a greater cost savings than eliminating an equal number of teachers and support staff in the schools. As a veteran, I can speak from experience that eliminating the soldiers in the trenches is NOT how to go about reducing headcount in this educational "war against ignorance."

Submitted by ptcmom678 on Wed, 02/04/2009 - 8:34am.

Yes, this IS misleading. They are including ALL teachers ("Specials" teachers, Special Ed. teachers, para-pros etc.) in their teacher count, but some special ed. teachers are in a closed classroom special ed. setting, while the technology, art, etc teachers that I've subbed for don't have homeroom classes. I have substituted in Fayette County classes and NEVER had less than 20 kids in a class.

On the need to hire more teachers - this was one more NCLB brainless move. Special Ed. teachers were required to be certified in every subject they were is. So, a 6th grade collaborative teacher who had a master's in special ed. was now required to be certified in math, science, language arts, etc. because s/he went to those subject classes with their collaborative kids. This was an idiotic move. As the parent of special needs kids, I really don't care if the special ed teacher on a collaborative team is certified in each subject area - that's what the SUBJECT teacher is there for!!! I just want the collab. teacher certified in Special Ed. and how to address my kid's special ed. needs. This is a big part of what drove Special Ed. teachers out of Special Ed. and why Ellis is saying she had to hire more staff.

Note to all Special Education teachers (current and former)- Thank you for what you do. Between the paperwork and the kids, and us parents, you've got a plateful. Bless you, thank you, and hang in there.

Submitted by Doug on Tue, 02/03/2009 - 10:39pm.

Yeah, but weren't student numbers going down and teacher hires going up? Does that really make sense for a school system so deep in debt they can't see around it?

When you're that deep in debt, is it smart to brag about such small student-teacher ratios? Isn't that how they got into debt?

Shoebox's picture
Submitted by Shoebox on Tue, 02/03/2009 - 7:16pm.

13 TO 1??? I substituted in various schools this past fall and I had a whole bunch of students in EVERY class I taught, too many students, in fact! PLEASE, DO NOT CUT TEACHERS..DO THAT AND YOU ARE DOWNGRADING THE QUALITY OF EDUCATION IN THIS COUNTY!

Submitted by wildcat on Tue, 02/03/2009 - 10:39pm.

Yea....other than resource rooms and gifted rooms....what rooms carry rosters that average 13??? Not any classes that I've ever been in. The classes that I've collab-ed in over the years have ALWAYS had 25-30 students. Oh..I get it...they count the collab teacher in the class room and then they can say that it's 13:1, or 15:1, right????? Call it what you want, but there are still 25-30 student bodies in the classroom.

Submitted by Doug on Tue, 02/03/2009 - 10:43pm.

There are 21 children in my son's four grade class. Maybe those schools that are only at 40% student populations have 13:1 ratios.

Submitted by Linda Wheatley on Tue, 02/03/2009 - 6:49pm.

The formula includes all teachers, not just classroom teachers. So, there are no homeroom classrooms with 13 students in this county. My children are in elementary classrooms with 26 students and no room to move. This article and its figures are misleading!

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