Class Size Matters

Stephanie Benischek, Elementary Music Teacher

By Stephanie Benischek, Music Teacher from Happy Valley, OR

My name is Stephanie Benischek. I am a music teacher in the North Clackamas School District. We moved here from Nebraska nearly five years ago imagining that although the scenery would change, our children’s schools and my job would be relatively the same. We were wrong.

My son, Gabe, was in 1st grade the year we moved. He went from a kindergarten class of 22 students in Lincoln, Nebraska, to a class of 37 1st graders in Salem, Oregon. That’s right — 37 six-year-olds, learning to read and tie their own shoes in one room, with one teacher in a Title 1 school. That same year, my district had eight “furlough” days. I had to ask someone what a furlough day was.

Since 2012, Oregon has made a lot of progress. Let’s be clear: we do not want to reverse the progress we’ve made. If school districts are forced to cut days due to budget concerns, we are short changing our children their opportunity to learn.

Secondly, class size is a BIG deal. Since moving here, I have had classes with 32 kindergarteners, 37 1st graders, 38 2nd graders, 39 3rd graders, and even 40 4th/5th graders in my music room at one time. I don’t have enough bongo drums for each child at these class sizes, so they must take turns playing. It is simply too much to ask of any educator to have this many students to teach.

Large class sizes diminish the quality of the relationships we can build with our students and the amount of time and attention we can give each child. Our students and public deserve more. My family loves living in Oregon. I adore my students and my school. As a parent, I want the best for my own children. I urge you to FULLY fund our public education system.

Stephanie Bensichek is an Elementary Music Teacher in Happy Valley.

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