Classroom Sizes ELPS

Why are there 29 students in my child’s third grade class and why has classroom size increased so much in East Lansing Public Schools (ELPS) over the past ten years?

These are the questions being posed by many parents throughout the district as their children start the school year. There are three main reasons for the increasing classroom sizes:

1. Rising health care and retirement costs faced by ELPS (along with all school districts in Michigan) have not been matched by increases in state funding.

2. ELPS has not capitalized on opportunities to offset these higher costs with increased revenue.

3. Poor planning resulted in inefficient building related spending on maintenance, utilities and grounds which prevented these funds from being used to decrease class sizes. This poor planning includes closing Red Cedar without concrete plans for how to use this asset AND spending $8.4 million on middle school renovations that did not change the number of teaching stations but did add a new atrium and “open spaces”.

There are straightforward steps ELPS should take to turn this trend of increasing class sizes around and bring more resources into the classrooms.

1. Use alternative tax policies, like a recreational millage, to free up funds for the salaries of teachers, para-professionals, counselors and specialists. This can be accompanied by a decrease in the sinking fund millage which must be used for capital expenditures.

2. Investment in school buildings that allows maximum resources to be directed to the classrooms. This means renovating or building spaces that are the appropriate sizes for our student body. The first step is to determine the optimal size of the student body based on an informed understanding of the trends in resident population and a thorough analysis of how school of choice students can augment the student body to provide all East Lansing students with the most classroom resources.

3. Evaluate all options for the use of current building space in the context of the appropriate class sizes for East Lansing students.

East Lansing is clearly a community that values education, but it is also an educated community that wants smart investments. To restore voter support for investments in East Lansing Public Schools, East Lansing residents must be assured that their taxes are being spent wisely and maximizing classroom resources.

Mike Conlin

[The information in this post is based on my research/analysis and represent my views. They do not necessarily represent the views of MSU.]

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