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Teachers: Larger classes require more pay

The union representing teachers in the Eagle Point School District say they should be paid more money for teaching larger classes of students. Administrators say that would add to the district's costs and potentially lead to even larger class sizes.

The idea was first discussed in March, and has remained on the table during ongoing contract negotiations between teachers and classified staff and the district.

The district has continued to hold the position that additional compensation for larger classes would only exacerbate budget problems.

District officials are concerned that by increasing pay and benefits for these teachers, class sizes could be increased further because of layoffs.

"We don't want to add anything to the contract that will add any additional costs," said Michael Remick, the district's human resources director.

The Eagle Point Employees Association's proposal suggests a class size schedule for compensating teachers who have large numbers of students.

The schedule lists ideal class sizes as 20 students for grades K-2, 25 students for grades 3-5 and no more than 32 students per class or 162 per day for teachers of grades 6-12.

If by Sept. 30 of a given school year the class sizes exceed those limits, the proposal calls for teachers to be paid $25 per month for the first and second students over the limit.

For a third and fourth student over the limit, teachers would receive $50 per student monthly, with increasing $25 increments for each two more students over the class limit.

Remick said with the number of teachers in the district, if each class was only one student over the limit, the district would have to pay nearly $5,000 a year.

If the district reduced staffing to pay the additional costs, it could lead to larger class sizes, which would in turn lead to more payments for teachers with large classes.

"You can see where this can go," said Remick.

Remick said the district doesn't have especially large class sizes currently; he thinks they are in the "middle of the pack" in comparison with other districts.

But many teachers do have large classes, according to Brian Hall, president of the Eagle Point Education Association.

"The class sizes in our district — many are well above 30, and some over 35," said Hall. "If a teacher has class sizes that are consistently larger, they should be compensated for that extra work."

Hall said although new contracts can be used to close budget deficits in a district, they can also serve as a catalyst for changing practices for the overall good of a district.

"We think this would operate as a deterrent for creating those larger class sizes," said Hall.

The district has been in contract negotiations with the Eagle Point Employees Association for six months. Whether teachers should be paid more for teaching larger classes is one of five topics still on the table for contract negotiations.

Negotiations also include compensation and cost of living increases, layoff procedures, teacher evaluation procedures and classroom and professional development time.

The previous three-year contract with the district expired June 30, but as the contract stipulated, the employees continue to work under the old contract as bargaining carries on.

"We don't believe there are easy answers," said Remick.

Remick said the district and the teachers' union have agreed to consider bringing in someone from the state to help mediate as they work through bargaining.

There is no tentative timeline for an end to the bargaining process, Remick said.

"We're going to continue to work to a common understanding," he said.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.