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Axing class-size reduction saves Manteca $1.24M, reduces state costs by $7.16M

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Axing class-size reduction saves Manteca $1.24M, reduces state costs by $7.16M

One class-size reduction cut proposal would save $160,000 by eliminating four full-time equivalent positions at the district's high schools.

Bulletin file photo/


POSTED December 16, 2008 4:49 a.m.
Class-size reduction for Manteca Unified costs $8.4 million.
The school district still has to identify $8.75 million in cuts to cover a projected $14 million deficit for the school year starting July 1.
So why not just eliminate class-size reduction?
The answer may surprise you.
The actual savings would only reach $1.24 million since the district would lose $7.16 million in restricted state finds earmarked for Manteca Unified for the sole purpose of reducing student-to-teacher ratios in kindergarten, first, second and third graders as well as some ninth-grade classes to 20-to-1.
In the end, the State of California would end up saving more money than Manteca Unified School District by getting rid of class-size reduction teachers.
Such a move would also eliminate 120 teaching jobs. And if the board ultimately opts to keep the class-size reduction program, there is no guarantee the state will give the district the money if the California Legislature needs to make drastic slashes to spending to curtail the ballooning state deficit. That would mean if the board didn’t act to slash class-size reduction by March 15, they could be stuck with a $7.16 million budget hit if the state subsequently decides to ax funding anyway. The March 15 date is a state-mandated cut-off point for districts to notify tenured teachers that they may not have a job for the following school year.
What to do with class-size reduction — to keep it, eliminate it, or retain part of it — is a prime example of how dicey it is for a local district to make budget cut decisions in advance of the state addressing funding and how to bridge their own deficit.
The class-size reduction sub-committee met Monday and opted to unanimously recommend all proposed class-size reductions as Level III cuts when the entire 100-member budget reduction committee meets Jan. 6-7 to finalize recommendations for the board on how to address the deficit.
Level I cuts are already in place and come to $5.25 million. Those cuts include eliminating 14 vice principals district wide for a savings of $1.4 million.
Level II cuts are those that the 100-member committee agrees on to be packaged as one. Acting Superintendent Jason Messer has expressed the hope the board might view the Level II cuts as having consensus and would decide to adopt all of them.
That would leave Level III cuts. They would go to the board to consider on a one-on-one basis to come up with whatever shortfall still has to be bridged once Level II cuts are made.
The class-size reduction committee rationalized making all of their suggestions Level III in response to the board’s instruction to try and keep cuts as far away from the classroom as possible.
Sub-committees have been acting independently so far. One sub-group — the school closure and consolidation — has a number of members express the hope that class-size reduction could help avoid the need to close schools. That means if that sub-committee — which meets today – decides to push all of their recommendations to Level III the board could end up having a smorgasbord of major options to select from that have no consensus from the 100-member group appointed to try and gain a broad cross-section of teachers, classified employees and administrators.

The least impact on teachers

The class-size reduction sub-committee is making it clear that dropping the effort to reduce the number of students per teacher at the primary level will have negative impacts on the education of children. It also would eliminate intervention programs put in place to help struggling students that takes full advantage of having 116 extra teachers beyond the traditional 30-plus students per classroom approach.
If they were given a chance to prioritize Level II cuts — which they aren’t — they would prefer cutting the four full time equivalent teaching posts at the ninth grade to accomplish class size reduction in some classes. It costs $280,000. The state contributes the least amount of money for the high school program — it figures out to $120,000. It costs the district $160,000 to cover the gap. That would translate into a $160,000 savings. It would be the highest net savings per teacher position eliminated through class-size reduction.
Also, they are pretty confident that the single subject credentialed teachers at the secondary level could be absorbed at one of the five district high schools through attrition.
Another cut advanced by the sub-committee would be to eliminate 27 teachers at the kindergarten level through class-size reduction and replace them with 55 two-hour a day aides to assist with overlap time.
The alternative that is listed as the committee’s “absolutely last resort since it affects the most teachers and students” would be cutting 116 of the district’s 352 kindergarten through third grade. Eliminating the 116 teachers put in place for class-size reduction would save $1,080,000.
The assumptions made on the cost savings is that every teacher cut would result in $70,000 in salary and fringe benefit savings. Actual savings on any positions eliminated would vary based on seniority.
There are currently 82 kindergarten teachers, 86 first grade teachers, 84 second grade teachers, 86 third grade teachers, and 14 teachers of combo classes.
The goal is to bring recommended cuts back to the board from the committee in early February. If the board adopts whatever Level II cuts that the group agrees on, Messer figures the odds are that won’t be enough.
That’s when the next round of possible cuts — Level III — come into play. In all likelihood they would involve credentialed personnel. That means the cut must be made before March 15 in order to notify some teachers they may not have a job next year.
Manteca Unified doesn’t want to do what some districts do which is simply issue blanket notice that teachers may not have jobs and cut later.
Messer said that’s not a good strategy for two reasons. First, it prompts teachers to look for jobs elsewhere when they really don’t have to. It also creates a logistic nightmare since all 2,300 teachers would have to be served in person.
Messer said the board has two goals — balance the budget as required by law and keep the education of students moving forward.
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