Crazy idea? Maybe not, considering budget concerns and that it's an election year in Loudoun – and if it was done with skill.
Increasing classroom sizes is like threatening Social Security, the Third-Rail of education politics. Nothing good ever seems to come of mentioning it, despite solid research showing that class size is a minor determinant of learning achievement relative to other, more cost effective and significant factors – such as teacher quality.
NPR carried a story the other day ("Schools Tested by Budget Cuts Learn New Strategies") in which former DC schools chief Michelle Rhee suggested that dollars-strapped school divisions should consider actually increasing some classroom sizes to save money – and putting the more effective educators in them. "The way that I think would make sense is to identify the most highly effective teachers in a particular district, and think about assigning a few more students to each of their classrooms," Rhee says.
Rather than blindly avoiding the option or responding to budget constraints by increasing all classroom populations across the board, maybe LCPS should expertly and strategically increase some student:teacher ratios and assign/entice teachers capable of handling larger classes to them. Even offering bonuses to those teachers would certainly have less financial impact than hiring more teachers.
This may be something to consider as well when finding solutions to the challenge of the five Loudoun schools the governor has identified as "hard-to-staff."