Voters of the Nov. 2012 election will have their say on Measure E, a new parcel tax that prevents a $3.2 million cut in education.
“The school program as we know it is completely at risk,” school board trustee Richard Harris said. Without Measure E, Harris and others say, Davis schools will see even larger class sizes.
According to Harris, Measure E can’t lower class sizes, but it would preserve our current condition. “It’s not bells and whistles. It’s not cherries on top. It’s not extra,” Harris said. The failure of Measure E would result in about 50 laid off teachers, which would force the district to increase class sizes, Harris said.
More students per teacher prevents students from reaching their full potential, according to English teacher Carin Pilon. Pilon now has 163 students compared to her 100 students in the 2007-2008 school year.
“It’s disheartening that I can’t give to my students the attention that I know they need to become better writers, more sophisticated readers [and] more critical thinkers,” Pilon said.
Bigger classes cause teachers to have less control over the students, which can negatively impact education, says social science teacher Jesse Kermit. “If there’s only one of me and there is more of them, then it’s much harder to keep that control so that the majority of the students benefit from the education,” Kermit said.
Increasing class sizes have also caused teachers to have less individual time with each student, according to math teacher Patricia Marlow.
Marlow, whose average class size has gone from 27 to 32 students in one year, has 50 minutes to check homework, teach a new concept and get her students started on homework. She estimates she has less than one minute of individual interaction with each student.
Some students such as sophomore Jamie Bautista find it much harder to learn in a classroom with so many students.
“With larger class sizes, I am less taken care of by my teachers,” Bautista said. “I have to try a lot harder to strive in my classes, and to be noticed by my teachers.”
Davis High foreign language teacher Lili Floyd also said that teachers can’t focus on individuals with such large classes. This has been hard for both low and high level language students. “It’s just very frustrating,” Floyd said.
With big classes, students must share equipment in Jeanne Pettigrew’s home economics classes. Pettigrew, whose largest class has 36 students, said that students in her foods class must take turns to utilize cooking tools. Students are not able to have as much individual activity which is difficult because “all career tech classes are [based on] practice,” Pettigrew said.
While teachers say Measure E is vital to maintain the quality of education, others have stated their opposition to the new tax.
“The school board is looking at Davis taxpayers as an ATM machine. Four measures in two years is unreasonable,” school board candidate Jose Granda said.
Taxes will continue to increase if the people of Davis continue to support them, claims Granda’s anti-parcel taxes website. He argues these taxes become permanent and cites the increasing amounts of parcel taxes Davis residents have had to pay since the 1980s.
Teachers are hopeful about the Nov. 6 election but are also preparing for the worst. “We will manage to make do in some way, shape or form,” Kermit said. “If Davis wants to maintain a high quality school system, then I think [Measure E is] very important.”