• The San Juan Daily Star

Education Dept. nixes bill that would limit classroom size

By The Star Staff

The Education Department on Wednesday rejected legislation under evaluation by the House Education Committee that would limit the number of students per classroom.

House Bill 135, penned by Puerto Rican Independence Party Rep. Denis Márquez Lebrón, proposes to implement a control on the number of students per classroom as a mechanism to improve academic achievement and educational services.

In comments in rejection of the bill, an Education Department official said “[t]he measure presents serious challenges and an adverse impact for the Department, and therefore, for its execution.”

“The implementation of the bill would cause an indeterminate budgetary impact for Education coffers,” said Wendy Colón, special assistant to the acting secretary of the agency, Eliezer Ramos Parés.

The agency said the bill would be costly because it would have to finance more space for students.

Márquez Lebrón said the analysis of the measure carried out by the Education Department is “distant” from the realities that teachers and educators face with students in the classroom.

“I find it outrageous that they have dealt with their presentation only on the tax issue and not working on this core problem as an island project,” he said.

Rep. Deborah Soto Arroyo, who chairs the House Education Committee, insisted that the agency’s participation through her experience as a teacher was non-existent or, at best, not very proactive.

“The Department has never been in the best position to serve the true needs of the country’s teachers,” she said. “As a teacher, on many occasions, I had to clean and paint my classroom in order to receive my students. I am aware that here educators are prepared with bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees and they go the extra mile every day.”

The bill’s preamble establishes that states such as Florida have adopted, by constitutional provision, a means of control over the number of students per classroom. “Studies have consistently shown that fewer students per classroom results in higher academic achievement, a lower dropout rate, a greater expectation of years of quality of life, and a greater potential for future income,” reads the measure.

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