Murray Introduces Legislation to Reduce Class Sizes Across the Country

Oct 01 2007

FOCUS Act would provide $2 billion to hire new teachers, allowing children to receive the attention they deserve

Would create the first dedicated funding stream for class size reduction under No Child Left Behind

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Facilitating Outstanding Classrooms Using Size reduction (FOCUS) Act which will deliver $2 billion in funding to make America's classrooms less crowded. The FOCUS Act builds upon previous successful class size reduction initiatives by providing the funding needed to hire new teachers and to create a continuum of small classes for students from Kindergarten through third grade and beyond.

"We need to allow our teachers to spend more of their time and energy maintaining grades and less on maintaining order," said Senator Murray. "This bill is a win for everyone. Local school districts will be able to hire the new teachers they need, students will get the attention they deserve, and parents will see the rewards smaller class sizes deliver."

The FOCUS Act builds on successful class size reduction efforts that were included in No Child Left Behind. Since that law passed in 2001, federal education dollars have been targeted to class size reduction within the fund that provides training and professional development for teachers. Murray’s bill, however, would ensure that class size reduction efforts no longer compete with professional development funds, since both are proven to be critical to school success.  The FOCUS Act would provide the first dedicated funding stream for class size reduction under No Child Left Behind. The funding level would be $2 billion in the first year.

"No Child Left Behind puts funding for class size reduction and teacher quality into one fund. This means that local school districts must choose between providing smaller classes or funding high quality teachers. They shouldn't have to choose one or the other. It's past time we adequately fund both," said Murray, a former school board member.

Scientific research has shown that benefits of smaller classes include improving student achievement as well as producing long-term social benefits.

For example, The STAR Study found that students in small classes significantly outperformed other students in math and reading. It also found that students in small classes have better high school graduation rates, higher grade point averages, and they are more inclined to pursue higher education.

Another study, the Wisconsin SAGE study consistently proved that smaller classes result in significantly greater student achievement.

"As a parent and a former educator, I have seen first-hand the benefits of smaller classrooms," Murray said. "And study after study has shown that students in smaller classrooms get better grades, perform better on assessments, and have the drive to pursue further education."