Last week, Novi High School teacher Rod Franchi made a claim in the Detroit Free Press that Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget cuts would “likely make 40 students per classroom commonplace.”
It’s not an uncommon complaint, but in the case of the Novi School District, it is one that deserves a closer look. As of 2009, Novi had 325 regular classroom teachers and 6,250 students. That’s a 19.23 to 1 student-to-teacher ratio.
Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, notes that student-to-teacher ratio is not the same as classroom sizes, but it does give an idea of how many teachers are available in the district.
In an email, Franchi said that not all teachers work in a classroom, and that some could be in a resource or reading room.
Franchi repeated the 40-student claim in an email to Michigan Capitol Confidential.
He said that Novi “would probably have something like 40 students per class in many of our conventional classes. I was careful in choosing my words; I didn't say all classes but said 40 students would be commonplace.”
But Van Beek noted that with 325 regular classroom teachers and 6,250 students, even if 100 teachers left the district — nearly 31 percent of the teaching workforce — there would still be one teacher for every 27.7 students in the district.
That’s far short of the 40 students per teacher.
If classes did swell to 40 students per teacher, Van Beek asked, “What would the other teachers be doing?”
And then there’s the Novi teachers’ union contract. It states that for high school classes, the maximum size allowed is 28 students. Once a class exceeds that size, the solutions include assigning an extra teacher or paraprofessional to the class to assist the first teacher.
Novi Superintendent Peter Dion didn’t respond to messages left for comment about the possibility of classrooms with 40 students.
The Detroit Free Press biography for Franchi notes that he teaches economics, civics and Advanced Placement U.S. History; and that he also has masters’ degrees in English and Social Studies Education from Wayne State and the University of Michigan, respectively.