The Detroit News reports that Detroit Public Schools has had a problem with student overcrowding, including Nolan Elementary School that had 56 students in one kindergarten class and Cass Tech High Schoool that had 84 class periods in which the number of students exceeded the maximum set by contract. The teacher’s contract varies, but allows up to 35 students per classroom in some situations.
But the most recent state data on the number of teachers and students in the district raises questions as to whether the overcrowding is a result of a lack of teachers, as the teachers’ union asserted in The News.
For example, in 2010-11, Cass Tech had 91 general education teachers and 2,138 students. That’s a teacher-to-pupil ratio of 23.4-to-1. Last year, Nolan Elementary School had 32 general education teachers and 596 students, for a ratio of 18.6-to-1.
In 2010-11, Detroit Public Schools had 75,263 students and 3,426 general education teachers, for a teacher-to-pupil ratio of 21.9-to-1. That data comes from the state of Michigan’s Center for Educational Performance and Information.
“Either the district laid off about half of their teachers in these buildings or it doesn’t appear they have the right staff in the right places,” said Michael Van Beek, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s education policy director. “It doesn’t look like they are managing their staff very well. If there are 70 kids in a science class with only one science teacher, what are the other teachers in the school doing?”
The number of teachers in the district this fall is not available because DPS has thus far ignored a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Mackinac Center in September.
The Mackinac Center sent FOIA requests in September to the district FOIA coordinator and the Detroit Board of Education asking for the number of teachers in the district. The Mackinac Center’s Jarrett Skorup also said he left two phone messages about the FOIA request that went unreturned.
By law, municipalities have a five business days to respond to a FOIA, but can request an additional 10-day extension.
Detroit Public Schools spokesman Stephen Wasko didn’t respond to email requests Wednesday for information.