The news: Gov. Pat Quinn proposed $1.3 billion in education budget cuts that could force the Chicago Public Schools to increase classroom size to 35. The current average is 28 to 31 students per classroom.

Behind the news: A Chicago Reporter analysis found that the average class size in most CPS high schools is nowhere near that range. Some say it’s because individual schools find funding sources other than the state. The Reporter found that the classroom size at most CPS high schools falls well below 28. In 2009, the average was 22, and 19 percent statewide, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. However, 10 of CPS’s 117 high schools analyzed already meet or exceed 28.

Hancock College Preparatory High School had the highest average at 34, followed by Community Services West High School and Northside College Preparatory High School, with 32 and 31, respectively.

The numbers in some schools are higher than others because they don’t have the discretionary Title I funding, fundraising money or grants that schools typically use to hire additional teachers.

Kenwood High School Principal Liz Kirby said that even though the average class size at Kenwood is 26, the school had to get creative to keep its number low. She and her assistant principal both teach classes as well as use discretionary funds to hire two additional teachers. But Kirby said discretionary funds won’t cover the school’s budget needs for the 2010-11 school year. If the proposed budget cuts lead to an increased class size, the size at Kenwood could increase to the lower 30s, Kirby said.

“Research shows that 35 students in a class is not a ratio that benefits students,” Kirby said. “It won’t give them the feedback they need on their work.”

Kayla Bensing

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