Sometimes a misapprehension is so absurd the disconnect from reality just doesn’t register. I am absolutely dumb-founded to learn that evidently some believe ‘teachers want lower class-sizes for the sole benefit of permitting more teachers to be hired. It’s a “labor-thing”’, and thus teachers have a ‘conflict of interest’ in their opinion regarding class-size, or so the thinking apparently goes.

As the parent of children in public classrooms that are shamelessly overcrowded, I state unequivocally, for the record, that it is my own empirical experience that informs the cry for lower class-size in district schools. As a parent, as the guardian of a child assigned to learn from that teacher – speaking for the sake of the child-learner first and foremost, the imperative could not be clearer. It is not for the teacher’s sake that lower class-size is paramount; it is for the child’s.

I do not want my child sitting in a classroom so large that there is insufficient seating for all. I do not want my child sitting in a classroom so crowded that some must be seated too far back to see the whiteboard. I do not want my child sitting in a classroom so crowded as to be unable to maintain that connection with the teacher which inspires learning and mitigates misbehavior. With overcrowded classrooms the teacher cannot know every child, my child, your child. With overcrowded classrooms the teacher is relegated to disciplinary catch-up rather than well-grounded, confidence-inspiring connectivity. With overcrowded classrooms quite simply, and not to put too fine a point on it: my child does not receive enough attention.

With all due respect, on a gut-guardian level, I don’t care a whit about ensuring that more rather than fewer teachers take home a paycheck, public or otherwise. I want my child to be seated in a classroom where she has some hope of being taught by the teacher leading it. When that classroom is stuffed full of too many learners, its teacher will be constitutionally incapable of giving my child the attention she deserves.

Moreover, everybody knows this. Some arguments simply are not viable, and when someone quibbles about efficiency and how it might really be possible for a teacher to take on just a few more here and there well past the obvious threshold of reasonable capacity, such arguments amount to an intellectual slight-of-hand. Arguing that lowering class-size is just not ‘worth the cost’ belies the disingenuous claim that these budget-setters have any interest in the actual learning-outcome of the afflicted – our public district schoolchildren.

Because mark very well that these are not their own children relegated to such overcrowding. People of means, including policy setters, administrators and even many if not most teachers, are sending their own children to private schools in droves, chasing that elite low pupil:teacher ratio. And it is this precise amenity that so many of these charter schools are striving so hard to emulate by hook or by crook. When they co-locate at a school promising 25 students to a classroom right smack alongside – on top of in fact, a school relegated to class-sizes of upwards of 30 and even 40, this amounts to a damning of nearly intolerable degree. It is unfair in the extreme, it is classist, possibly racist and certainly separatist.

Everybody wants low class-sizes. District school families as much as everybody else. Pretending that the argument over lowering class-size in the public schools is about Labor pushing its undue might over the poor hornswaggled, overpaying public, is just a distraction from the reality that there is an increasingly isolated sector of society – namely poor, hard-to-educate and immigrant peoples remaining in district public schools, for whom society at large no longer wants to afford adequate educational necessities.

But it’s more than the personal loss of adequate schooling that such miserly budgetary measures foretell. At stake is the promise of the ideal of our republic. We invite to be given:

”…your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

with an implicit promise of welcome:

“Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Relegating children to a substandard, segregated institution of inferior promise is nothing short of committing treason toward our democracy.