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Michelle’s math class at Alhambra High has 36 students. Photo by Michelle Ruan, 17, Alhambra HS

This year the state cut $6 billion in funds to schools to close a $24 billion budget deficit. That meant schools had less money for teacher salaries, programs and classroom supplies. To deal with the cuts, they had to lay off teachers, resulting in larger class sizes. L.A. Youth writers share the effects these cuts have had inside the classroom.

My teacher has less time to give us feedback

There are 45 students in my AP English class. It started out with 50 but some  students saw it was too crowded so they dropped it and went to regular English. Whenever we told the teacher, Ms. Higa, that someone dropped the class, she sighed and said “Thank god.” I didn’t leave because it’s AP and I really want the class. She’s strict but I like the way she teaches. We have class discussions about stuff that happens in the news.
    She told us that in the past she would correct an assignment and give it back to the student. The student would give it back with the corrections made and again she’d find more mistakes and mark them and give it back to the student. She said the most would be seven times back and forth. Now she can’t do that. She says there are too many students. It’s more stressful for her because she has six classes and they’re all full. She tells us our work has to be perfect the first time. She’s going to correct it once and that’s our final grade. I think that’s a disadvantage because we obviously make mistakes and we don’t have a chance to make corrections.
    I think I’ll still learn. But I wish there were fewer people because we’d get more one-on-one interaction with the teacher. I blame the governor. Shouldn’t he have taken the money from somewhere else? Education is something we need. Soon we’re going to be the ones out there in the world and we need the knowledge.
—By Beatriz Lopez, 17, Gardena HS

A crowded math class makes it harder to keep people focused

My statistics class had 39 students but now we have 36. One student dropped the class and another two were moved to other classes that had more room. Before, one girl sat at the computer desk because there wasn’t room. My math class last year had 32 students.
My math teacher, Mr. Matossian, had been certain that our class size would decrease. He said, “The teachers’ contract with the school district is pretty clear. … After the third week, the limit becomes 36.” Thirty-six students in a class is still a lot of people. Even though Mr. M. has three out of five classes filled with the maximum of 36 students, he said “It would be nice to have 20-something, but this is the real world.”
He admits it’s hard to keep people focused, but I think that he’s doing his best by using a projector and digital video camera, which records him working out problems at his desk at the front of the class. Instead of using the white boards, which sometimes people in the back or corners can’t see, the projected image is big enough for the whole class to see. Mr. M. has been using this technique for a few years and so far, it works.
Still, the larger class sizes make learning harder because we all want the teacher’s attention when we don’t know how to do something. In my math class, not all raised hands are answered. In my English class of 36 students, instructions get muddled at times because when the teacher tries to tell us what to do, the noise level is pretty high and her words get lost within everyone else’s conversations.
My drama class is the biggest class I have with more than 40 students. I’m not sure that it’s going to drop to 36 because it’s not a core class.
Teachers stay after school, but not for a long time. I have after-school activities so I can’t go often for help even if I want to. I wish that there was more funding for school but I know I’ll just have to make the best of it.
By Michelle Ruan, 17, Alhambra HS

My school can’t afford paper for handouts

My school doesn’t have the money to let teachers make enough copies to give one handout to each student. One class set of each handout is all it can afford, so students are forced to write questions from the handout onto separate paper. Some of these questions go on for a whole paragraph and it can take a half hour to write them all.
Comparing this year to previous years, I see that we’re losing a lot of learning time because we’re being forced to spend time copying down questions, rather than thinking about and writing down answers.
It’s not just the time we’re losing though. My biology teacher says she won’t use handouts this year. She says that since the school doesn’t have enough paper as it is that she wants to save paper for class sets of tests. Because of this, we’re not getting worksheets and other material that expand understanding. To me it seeems like the school is saying supplements are no longer necessary.
Even with the reduced amount of paper being used, several of my teachers have told me that they think the office will be out of photocopy paper by December. I wonder what we’ll do then. Most likely, we’ll have to copy things down from overhead projectors, but I have a few classes that don’t have those. This school year looks like it will be a difficult one.
By Lane Erickson, 16, South HS (Torrance)

We fall further behind in every class

Because of the budget cuts, class sizes have increased this year, making it harder to learn. Instead of being able to go over the previous night’s math analysis homework quickly and teach the new lesson slowly, we spend half of class answering questions, leaving only 10 to 20 minutes for the next lesson.
This lack of individual time in the classroom makes homework frustrating. On numerous occasions, I have done my math homework hesitantly, constantly checking my notebook to see if I am following the correct steps. The next day students came to class with questions about the previous night’s homework, taking up more time from the next lesson, creating a snowball effect.
Many students are considering getting private tutoring. We have no chance of succeeding if each concept isn’t taught thoroughly in class.
My math teacher, Mr. Davies, agrees that this is a problem.
“The class sizes are way too big,” he said. “That means a lot less time for individual instruction. The teacher can compensate for this by offering tutoring after school. Teachers have to work harder and longer.”
In my AP European history class, the lack of individual time with students is a problem when trying to prepare everyone for the big AP exam in May. My teacher has arranged for Saturday lecture sessions where she can go over essay prompts and review lectures that were rushed through during class.
It bothers me that in California we pay some of the highest income and sales taxes in the country but the Legislature is incapable of balancing the budget.
By Stephany Yong, 15, Walnut HS

For more of L.A. Youth’s coverage of school budget cuts see …

Schools see effects of budget cuts. As they return to class, L.A. Youth writers share how the state budget deficit is affecting their schools. (September 2009)