SD school board pledges to work toward lowering class size while maintaining fiscal responsibility

Ideal class size for K-3 fewer than 17 students

SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday night pledged to work toward lowering class sizes in kindergarten through third grade while maintaining fiscal responsibility and called on legislators to speed up the restoration of funding to public schools.
   
Amid state budget cuts in 2008, San Diego Unified classes were kept at about 20 students. As cuts deepened since, class sizes in kindergarten through third grade were kept on average lower than many comparable large, urban school districts -- about 27 students in the majority and 24 in a few, according to
district officials.
   
National research showed that ideal class sizes in kindergarten through third grade were fewer than 17 students.
   
The "budget crisis for public education" was expected to continue for several years, with San Diego Unified projecting deficits annually for at least three years in order to maintain class size and staff levels, according to district officials.

Although voters approved tax increases to fund education under Proposition 30, funding was expected to be restored to 2008 levels by 2020.
   
Trustee Scott Barnett said that money, about $30 million this year, had already been earmarked for restoring deferred salary increases and benefits, but the raises, while deserved, contributed to a $90 million shortfall being offset by attrition and property sales.
   
"Previously teachers were being hurt by not getting raises," Barnett said. "Now teachers and kids are being hurt -- teachers have their raises, but they have to deal with larger class sizes, and thousands and thousands of our kids are being hurt."
   
The board's resolution, approved with an unanimous vote, called for bringing classes in kindergarten through third grade "down to levels consistent with research-based best practices as soon as possible" as the budget permits, and for advocacy at the state level to speed up restoring funding to public schools.
   
"We have to live in the realities we're facing right now, one thing we can do is unite together to accelerate the pace at which the funding is going to be coming in," board President John Lee Evans said.
   
Michelle Sanchez, secretary of the San Diego Education Association, the union representing the district's teachers, and a Garfield High School teacher, said the district wasn't doing enough to lower class sizes and was risking losing out on some state funding due to penalties.
   
"Our community didn't vote for words, they voted for action, and that action is for you to lower our K-3 class size to at least 24-1 now and not later," Sanchez told the board.
   
Also at the meeting, the board asked staff to consistently schedule spring break anchored to the week that includes March 31. San Diego Unified will take March 31 to April 4 off in the 2013-14 academic year, as will the San Diego Community College District.

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