Senate OKs class size reductions

ATLANTA - With little fanfare, the Senate unanimously approved legislation Friday reducing class sizes in Georgia elementary and middle schools.

The bill, which was introduced on behalf of Gov. Sonny Perdue and already had passed the House, now goes to the governor's desk for his signature.

The legislation caps at 18 the number of pupils in kindergarten classes without a full-time aide. When an aide is present, those classes can contain up to 20 pupils.

The bill limits class sizes in grades one through three to 21.

Classes in grades four through eight can contain up to 28 students.

Class-size reductions were a key element in the massive education-reform legislation steered through the General Assembly six years ago by former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes.

But with state tax revenues in the tank, Perdue delayed the reductions after he defeated Barnes in 2002.

When the Republican governor proposed to move ahead with the reductions at the beginning of the current election-year legislative session, Democrats accused him of coming over to their side for political gain.

"Teachers will have more control over the students and get more teaching done,'' said Sen. Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain.

The House was nearly as united as the Senate on the advantages of lower class sizes. Lawmakers there approved the bill earlier this month 160-4.