SC schools chief Zais ends push to deregulate class sizes

jself@thestate.comNovember 1, 2013 

SAMHOLLAND

— S.C. schools Superintendent Mick Zais no longer is asking the state Board of Education to repeal state regulations governing K-12 class sizes and staffing.

The first-term education superintendent made the announcement in a news release Thursday following about a month of intense opposition from educator advocacy groups. Those groups said they feared the changes could lead to packed classrooms and schools without principals or other key personnel.

Zais said those fears are unwarranted because the General Assembly has suspended the regulations for four years, giving schools freedom to make their own decisions about classroom sizes and personnel needs. He added he has found no signs that districts abused that flexibility.

“The proposed change would make (that flexibility) permanent,” Zais said. “Some have stated that suspending some staffing requirements would lead to packed classrooms. This misinformation is motivated simply by pure, partisan politics.

“During this time, districts have used the flexibility given to them by the General Assembly with wisdom and restraint, making decisions that account for local conditions. There has not been a single complaint from a teacher, school board, or parent about misuse of this authority. Local school leaders understand local requirements. They are better equipped to make staffing decisions than well-meaning officials in Columbia.”

Zais recommended the proposed changes to the state Education Board last month. The regulations now limit class sizes and set minimum standards for personnel, governing, for example, how many principals, guidance counselors, and art, music and library teachers a school must have based on its size.

At their October meeting, some state education board members sided with educator groups, saying they also were worried that repealing the regulations could lead to packed classrooms or poorly staffed schools. Others said the state has a duty to set standards defining what an adequate education looks like, regardless of whether the General Assembly decides to suspend them temporarily.

The class-size regulation is up for consideration at the state Board of Education’s next meeting on Nov. 13. Zais now is recommending the board not approve the regulation change.

Republican Zais, who says he will seek a second term in next year’s election, blames politics for much of the backlash to his proposal. He said he will recommend the General Assembly again suspend the class-size regulations when it meets in January.

Two former educators – state Rep. Mike Anthony, D-Union, and Montrio Belton of Fort Mill, a former director of school transformation under Zais – are seeking the Democratic nomination for the state superintendent’s job.

Reach Self at (803)771-8658

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