Educators talk about class sizes in Arizona post #RedforED

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- Teacher pay, and classroom funding are just two big talking points during the massive march on the Arizona State Capitol in the spring, but some issues of education reform have slipped through the cracks.

One is class size and the overcrowded classrooms in Arizona.

"Everyone has heard about duct tape on the textbooks, absolutely true," said Ben Carmitchel, a substitute teacher and small business owner.

But there's one that did not get the publicity that might be the key to fixing the still simmering movement of education reform in Arizona.

"It's nice to have friends in your classroom, but you don't want all your friends in the classroom." said Eric Kurland, who runs a K-8 Behavior Program.

"The difference between grading 20 essays that are six pages long, versus grading 30, is an unbelievable difference in the time expenditure that teachers have," said Peoria school board member Kathy Knecht.

"30 plus kids is a ton of kids, It's too many kids," said Tim Jeffries, whose wife works as a headmaster for a charter school.

The ambiguous issue of class size, the crowding of classroom, and the shrinking individual attention being given to students in Arizona public schools.

"It's a much more complicated issue than you can immediately wrap your arms around," said Kate Brophy McGee, a former school board president.

"I don't think people understand how long it takes a high school language arts teacher to grade 35 papers in a high-quality manner." said GCU Science Professor Blake Sacha.

Increase the workload with any job without an increase in pay, and one will have a problem.

"People always think, oh well, teachers only work from 9 to 5, they have weekends, summers and holidays off," said Joe Biscaccia, a 2nd year middle school teacher. "They don't realize how much work we take home with us."

But for all the candidates FOX 10 spoke with on the issue of class size, it's a matter of running a proper classroom.

"You're teaching to the middle of the classroom, there is no opportunity for one-on-one engagement with the students." said Lynsey Robinson, a former elementary school teacher.

"Classroom management is central is to good learning. When you have less kids to manage, learning thrives." said Jeffries.

"The research shows the smaller the class size, the more successful the students in that class will be," said Brophy McGee.

"When you have large class sizes and few school counselors, a lot of things fall through the cracks," said Daria Lohman, a candidate for State Senate District 23.

The issue of class size in Arizona has created an undercurrent for young millennial teachers who are unafraid of change.

"I don't think many people even understand that we lose 50% of our teachers in the first five years," said Sacha.

"But the one that finally kicks them out the door is when they can say 'you know what? I can't survive and have a family. I can't choose,'" said Kurland. "They have to make this choice between having kids and teaching kids."

"This always comes down to kids," said Marsh. "It always does."

There are at least 44 candidates on the ballot that are current or former teachers or education professionals, and most are running as Democrats. By comparison, the State of Kentucky  saw a similar teacher uprising this past spring, and it has 34 of the 100 educators on the ballot who survived it's state primary.

This is Part 1 of a two-part series on the impact of the #RedforED movement, and Arizona politics in the post #RedforED era. For part 1, click here.

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