We're thankful for full schools
With public schools pretty much in a no-win economic environment, the Tigard-Tualatin School District has the added problem of a large influx of students this year - an enrollment boom that is ballooning class sizes beyond what most people would consider ideal or even acceptable.
But this growth in enrollment is also a bit of a blessing for the local schools, for without new students the economic equation would be even more unfavorable. The only thing worse than having a growing enrollment during a time of declining state support for schools would be to have the opposite problem: flat or declining enrollment.
Other school districts around the state have found themselves in the latter situation in recent years when state school funding was constrained and their student populations also were falling.
Since the state allocates its school support based on the number of students in each district, these less-fortunate districts have endured the double whammy of receiving less money per student while also having fewer students to justify the state allocations. The result in many cases has been the closing of schools, which can lead to a downward spiral of even less enrollment and funding in future years.
Tigard-Tualatin schools are working on the challenge of accommodating 35 children per classroom at the high school level, where enrollment appears to be 100 more than expected. Reports from elementary schools and middle schools also point to rising enrollment, although official numbers won't be determined until next month.
The increase in enrollment comes after the district lost 32 teaching positions due to budget cuts, so there's no question that class sizes will be bigger. However, the higher student head count also will lead to a larger share of the state funding formula, which may provide some relief.
So while parents, educators and others may fret about the difficult funding status of schools in Oregon, there is some good news in the fact that Tigard-Tualatin schools are growing. Rising enrollment means the Tigard and Tualatin areas are still attracting families, and that local schools are still seen as a desirable place to educate children.
And for now, that's about as positive as the news can get for schools - until the economy begins to grow and the state once again can start investing appropriately in education.