Haslam Runs for Cover as Class Size Idea Bombs



Gov. Bill Haslam is backing away from his proposal to change state law to allow bigger school class sizes. His idea was to offer schools a way to save money to give pay raises to better teachers or to fill high-priority positions in subjects like math and science. Bigger classes means fewer teachers, so there's more money to go around to the special ones. But the plan has drawn heavy criticism from teachers and principals, and Democrats are accusing Haslam of rolling back progress in education. Even Republicans in the legislature are balking.

So today, Haslam said he’s going back to the drawing board. He said he will entertain other ideas from educators and others before deciding whether to go forward with this plan or some amended form of it.

In a speech to the Tennessee Press Association today, the governor acknowledged his proposal has gotten mixed reviews. “I guess that’s the charitable way of saying it,” he said.

“We think that flexibility is very, very helpful,” he told reporters later. “The answer is not, I agree, to just increase class size to free up money to do other things.”

OK, that's confusing because freeing up money to do other things was exactly what Haslam was saying he wanted to accomplish. But let's cut the guy some slack. At this point, Haslam probably is a little dizzy and not sure what he thinks.

The obvious solution here, one reporter pointed out, is increasing state funding to schools. Duh! If you want to raise teacher salaries, give schools more money to do it. Of course, the state doesn't have that much cash. That would require a tax increase or tax reform, and no politician in Tennessee even will admit to thinking about that.

“In terms of making a significant impact statewide, could we put enough money in there for the district to have significant salary adjustments?” Haslam asked rhetorically. “You’re talking a really, really large number to the state.”

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey called it a messaging problem. That's an understatement. When he touted his plan, Haslam kept talking about flexibility and local autonomy, but everyone recognized that was BS.

“I don’t want to say it’s dead, but at the same time, we’re regrouping and trying to figure out what local systems want,” Ramsey said.


Comments (18)

Showing 1-18 of 18

Add a comment

Add a comment