Class-size reduction funding appears highly unlikely | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Class-size reduction funding appears highly unlikely

William Ferchland

Class-size reduction will likely not return to Lake Tahoe Unified School District next year despite a last-ditch effort to resurrect part of the program, school board president Wendy David said.

A second choice of rehiring 11 teachers as math and English aides was presented to the board this month at a cost of $54,000.

David, who acts as spokeswoman for the board, became skeptical when asked if “option two” could work for the 2004-05 school year.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t believe that we have the resources to implement (class-size reduction) this year because of our budget.”

The board voted in February to include class-size reduction into it’s package of $1.5 million in cuts for next school year. Two dozen teachers were given walking papers.

The full program costs the district $240,000 to limit students at 20 per class through third-grade. More than $1 million was provided by the state.

A new figure, which included increases in teacher salaries, brought the cost to return the full program to $379,00, said Assistant Superintendent Barbara Davis.

Efforts to resurrect class-size reduction were put on hold as board members said during a Tuesday meeting they wanted to wait until the 2004-05 budget is presented to them June 8 for approval.

Superintendent Diane Scheerhorn stated in earlier interviews that for class-size reduction to be implemented next school year, notice must be given to the district by early July.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting Davis offered to answer why the second option wasn’t presented to focus groups in the fall.

“It was never really brought up because we were talking about space and money,” she said.

David said the return of class-size reduction likely depends on the passage of another parcel tax. A $60 parcel tax, called Measure L, to pump an annual $3.2 million into the district for six years failed last month.

“I think there’s a good chance it will return in general,” David said. “Perhaps not for next year. We’ve had to make our decisions and we’ve had to make some serious cuts.”

District officials have mentioned putting a revised parcel tax on a ballot but have not given a specific date of when that might occur.

“I think we learned a lot from the first parcel tax and we’ll be better prepared to put forth a better measure,” David said.

Carol Murdock, president of the teachers’ association, understood the board’s perspective

“It would be a great thing to do because we feel it’s really valuable for the kids but if it encroaches on the budget I think this school board is reluctant to do anything about it,” she said. “These are really tight times. We can advocate for it but we’re not the ones who make the final decision.”

Jim Weinberg, a parent who has railed for the return of class-size reduction, was disappointed with David’s statements.

“It’s a shame we’re subjecting our youngest to overcrowding in the schools and in the classrooms,” he said. “They deserve better and we owe them more.”

– E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com.


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