By EMMA BARTLETT
Senate President Pro Tempore Hanna Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick) who also works as a speech pathologist for Cranston Public Schools, introduced two education bills in …
By EMMA BARTLETT
Senate President Pro Tempore Hanna Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick) who also works as a speech pathologist for Cranston Public Schools, introduced two education bills in 2021 to set a limit of 20 students for Kindergarten through second grade and another that would ensure children had access to speech therapy past their ninth birthdays. Both bills passed in the Senate on May 24 and will now go to the House of Representatives.
“There are so many benefits to keeping class sizes from becoming too large in the early grades, and they are not limited to the years students are in those classes. Children who begin school in smaller classes have higher achievements throughout their academic careers, including higher graduation rates and better college entrance exam grades. Those students also have better attendance and even better health, motivation and self-esteem,” said Gallo in a Tuesday press release.
She said one of the most critical factors in a class is that it is small enough for the teacher to provide individual attention so each student can get to the next stage.
“Committing to small classes is committing to better education for all Rhode Island students, especially those who face learning challenges and disadvantages,” Gallo said.
The bill would require that as of October 1 of each school year, no more than 20 students could be assigned to those teaching core-curricula courses in public school classrooms for kindergarten through grade two. There are two expectations: one, in the case where there is an emergency situation (which would need to be resolved within three day). Two, if a student enrolls after Oct. 1 and there is no way to add them to a class without exceeding the limit.
According to the press release, data from the nonprofit Class Size Matters shows that children from poor and minority backgrounds experience twice the gains of the average student when taught in smaller early elementary grades – reducing the achievement gap by an estimated 38 percent. Additionally, Alan Krueger, who served as chairman of the Council on Economic Advisers for former President Barack Obama, estimated that every dollar invested in reducing class size yields about $2 in benefits.
“Investments in keeping early elementary classes small actually save money on special education and remedial services for students who do not acquire the literacy and numeracy skills they need to succeed in later grades. Just as caring well for seedlings creates strong, healthy plants, nurturing young students gives them the skills, self-confidence and drive to be strong learners for the rest of their lives. Small class sizes are truly a down payment on a stronger future for Rhode Island,” Gallo said.
The second bill regarding speech pathology would make it so speech-language pathology services would fall under special education. Additionally, it would not be terminated based on a child being nine years or older.
“As a speech pathologist, I see many children who are still in need of speech therapy when they are 9 or older. There’s such a wide range in the needs of children. Services need to be provided according to each individual child’s needs and progress, not cut off at a predetermined age, particularly one that is so young,” Gallo said.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the American Civil Liberties Union support this bill.
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