Sen. Biden & Murray Introduce Bill to Reduce Class Size

Press Release

Date: Oct. 1, 2007
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: K-12 Education

Class Size Reduction Bill to Fund Small Classes and Hire 100,000 New Teachers

U.S. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) joined with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) today to introduce a bill today that would substantially reduce the average class size in schools nationwide. The bill, the Facilitating Outstanding Classrooms Using Size Reduction (FOCUS) Act, would provide $2 billion in funding to hire 100,000 new teachers to reduce class size, particularly in the early grades.

"Research has consistently shown that small classes, particularly in the early grades, improve student performance," said Sen. Biden. "When a teacher is responsible for a classroom of 25, 30, or more students, how can we expect each student to receive enough time and attention? One pillar of our education system should be small classes."

The Murray-Biden Class Size Reduction Act of 2007 would strengthen earlier national efforts to reduce class size in the early grades. The No Child Left Behind Act incorporated the Class Size Reduction Program into Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Murray-Biden Class Size Reduction Act would restore a separate funding stream for the class size initiative - ensuring that efforts to reduce class size would not have to compete for funding with a broad array of other teacher and administrator professional development and training funds.

Research has shown that the benefits of attending small classes are the greatest for students in kindergarten through third grade, with even greater benefits accruing to those students for each additional year spent in small classes. Research further shows that at the end of fifth grade, students who were in small classes in first through third grades were approximately half a school year (5 months) ahead of students from larger classes in all core subjects--reading, language arts, math, and science.

Under the Murray-Biden bill, states and districts would receive funding to reduce average class size to 18 students in order to create a continuum of small classes for students as they progress from kindergarten to third grade and beyond. For districts and schools that have already reduced class size to an average of 18 students in those early grades, funds can be used to further reduce class size in the early grades, to reduce class size in subsequent grades, or to improve instructional practices in small classes.

Promoting smaller classes will enable teachers to spend more time on instruction and less time on discipline and classroom management. Recognizing that smaller classes require different types and methods of instruction, funding may be used for professional development to support high quality instructional practices. The bill also establishes a web-based National Clearinghouse on Class Size that would make research, best practices, and resources on small classroom instruction easily accessible to the education community. Additionally, the legislation requires an independent evaluation to be conducted to determine the impact and effectiveness of the initiative and the creation and maintenance of a National Class Size Database.

"The ultimate success of our education system depends on teachers," added Sen. Biden. "Ask any teacher if it matters whether they are teaching a class of 18 students or 25 students and you'll get the same answer every time: absolutely. Smaller classes will provide teachers with the resources they need to create the opportunities for learning that our students deserve."