Wed, Jul 30, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Kaohsiung mayor questions need for school referendum

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) yesterday questioned the need to hold a municipal referendum on a proposal to cut the size of classes in schools, as they have already dropped considerably.

Chen made the statement at a meeting of the city government after the Kaohsiung City Election Commission announced that a referendum on the proposal would be held by Nov. 23, as it had met the requirements for public endorsement.

Chen said the average number of students in elementary school classes in the city had dwindled to 19.27, well below the maximum of 25 that is being sought by the Kaohsiung City Teachers’ Association.

The association, which initiated the referendum, wants elementary school classes limited to 31 students starting in the fall of 2010, with further reductions of two students per year until the number reaches 25.

The referendum would cost the city government an estimated NT$26 million (US$855,000). If the proposal passed, it would mean adding 46 classes to Kaohsiung’s schools and spending another NT$32 million per year on teaching staff, said Chen Chin-yuan (陳金源), deputy chief of the city’s Bureau of Education.

Chen Chu asked the bureau to consult with parents and representatives of the association on the matter, but did not call for the referendum to be scrapped.

However, Kaohsiung City Government Secretary-General Hau Chien-sheng (郝建生) and Shih Cheh (史哲), head of the city’s Department of Information, said the referendum was pointless and would only increase the financial burden on residents.

It would be better to increase funding to provide nutritious lunches to students, they said.

Cutting class sizes would also require more qualified teachers, they said, adding that the number of teachers at elementary schools had already exceeded the figure approved by the city’s education bureau.

Data compiled by the education bureau showed 52 elementary schools in Kaohsiung City have classes with more than 25 students, with four schools having classes with over 31 students.

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