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Smaller class sizes slowly returning to Manteca USD

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POSTED March 13, 2015 1:27 a.m.

Get ready for smaller class sizes and teacher shortages in Manteca Unified schools.

Now that state budget cuts have ended, school districts are being required to slowly restore class-size reduction as funding levels are increased.

That means some grade levels will eventually return to a student teacher ratio of 24 to 1. The funding crisis triggered by the Great Recession pushed some class sizes up to 32 to 1.

It will cost the district about $80,000 in salary and benefits to bring in a teacher at the lowest step they hire at on the salary schedule. Staffing costs for salary and benefits for all district employees is 84 percent of the overall Manteca Unified budget.

Restoring teachers is a top priority for the district when it comes to spending additional state revenues they receive. The reason is simple. If they fail to meet the annual goal of restoring as reduced class-size one student a year at a time it can jeopardize their state funding that  accounts for the bulk of the budget.

And that is actually easier than  it sounds.

“For the first time ever we are encountering a shortage of teachers with multiple subject credentials,” noted Manteca Unified School District Superintendent Jason Messer. “In the past it was always a challenge to find math and science teachers. Now we are struggling to finish English teachers.”

Messer noted the teaching shortage was a direct result of the Great Recession.

“When the job openings disappeared, college students chose other career paths,” Messer said.

That was reflected in the fact enrollment dropped in college programs aimed at training teachers.

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