In an attempt to justify cuts to federal education spending, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is now arguing that larger class sizes and fewer teachers are actually good for students.
DeVos made the claim on Tuesday during a hearing on the White House’s 2020 fiscal year budget in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.
“There is no evidence that the Federal taxpayer investments in existing professional development programs or class-size reduction have meaningfully improved student outcomes,” DeVos stated in her written remarks before the committee. “In fact, students may be better served by being in larger classes, if by hiring fewer teachers, a district or state can better compensate those who have demonstrated high ability and outstanding results.”
When Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) asked where she got that information, DeVos was unable to cite any specific study.
“There’s plenty of research that will undergird the fact that mandating a specific class size doesn’t yield results,” DeVos responded.
Contrary to DeVos’ claim, there is a bevy of research that demonstrates that in addition to making sure teachers are well-qualified and prepared, reducing class sizes can help students succeed.
In a report from the Center For Public Education, the benefits of smaller class sizes — particularly in kindergarten through third grade — include greater education gains for low-income and minority students. The report recommends class sizes of no more than 18 students per teacher. A 20-year study from the Educational Testing Service also concluded that “ample research has indicated that children in smaller classes achieve better outcomes, both academic and otherwise, and that class size reduction can be an effective strategy for closing racially or socioeconomically based achievement gaps.”
The 2020 White House budget would cut federal education funding by 12 percent. About $2 billion would come from reserves for the Pell Grant program, the primary source of federal grant aid for millions of students from low and middle income families. The budget request instead makes school choice and charter schools a priority, proposing tax credits and grant programs that would divert money from public schools.
The 2020 education budget also proposes eliminating $17.6 million for the Special Olympics, which Trump proudly announced Thursday he would save, even though he signed off on the budget request and funding the government is the responsibility of Congress.