Overcrowded Classrooms About to Burst

Budget cuts have forced schools to expand class sizes. In Los Angeles, some classes are now pushing 50 students.

What happens when you strip $6 billion from California's education system? You get classrooms that look like clown cars, overflowing with kids: Students sitting on the floor or standing in a corner. Kids sitting on filing cabinets. Three children sharing one desk.

Welcome to the California classroom in the age of budget cuts.

That's the bleak picture painted by the Los Angeles Times this week, as most students begin their third week of the school year. While some California school districts have been able to minimize the budget cuts, others have been hit hard. Teachers who haven't been laid off find huge classes -- some classes larger than 50 students. Kelly Kapowski and Zack Morris never had it so tough.

"I'm very frustrated," John Collier, a teacher who has 48 students in his U.S. history class at Fairfax High School, told the Times. "I mean, it's a good class -- it's an honors class, and the kids are really good. But it's unreasonable to ask me to teach a class of 48 kids and give attention to everybody."

Even LAUSD Supt. Ramon C. Cortines was taken aback by the size of some classes, according to the Times:

Cortines was apparently startled during the first week of school when he walked into Cecily Myart-Cruz's sixth-grade English class at Emerson Middle School in Westwood. There were 57 students in the class, some arrayed in three neat rows on the floor. The superintendent, according to multiple accounts, turned to Principal Kathy Gonnella and said, "We are fixing this, aren't we?"

Some schools have juggled schedules to reduce class sizes a bit -- that class at Emerson eventually settled at 36 students. And experts don't know how these huge classes will impact the educational experiences.

For now, though, students and teachers alike will have to get used to cramped quarters.

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