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District 833 School Board rejects proposed class-size increase

District 833 School Board members rejected a budget-cutting proposal that would have increased class sizes by an average of one-half student per class.

Administrators, including Superintendent Mark Porter, proposed the class size change to reduce the 2011-12 school year budget by $425,000. School Board members said "no" to the proposal during a budget workshop Thursday night.

The staffing recommendation included adding four discretionary teachers, but a net loss of 6.5 teaching positions.

Secondary Assistant Superintendent Keith Ryskoski and Elementary Assistant Superintendent Dave Bernhardson told the School Board that the class size increase would hardly be noticed. It would not affect students in early elementary grades, where state money is used to keep class sizes low.

School principals agreed with the recommendation if discretionary teachers were available to relieve higher numbers in some classes or give students additional help.

"Not that anybody liked this," Ryskoski said. "But the changes are not going to make a significant difference if they have discretionary teachers."

Board members said they would make other spending cuts before increasing class sizes during the next school year. But board member Ron Kath said increasing class sizes would be most certainly be on a recommended list of cuts for 2012-13.

The district is facing an $11 million deficit for next school year if nothing in the budget is changed. While it has more than $17 million in unallocated money that could help cover a deficit, administrators say relying would mean they would be used up the following year.

Both the School Board and district administrators worry the Legislature will not increase education spending for the next two years and might actually cut the allocation to schools, so District 833 is hanging on to its unallocated money as long as possible.

School Board members agreed with another administrative budget proposal to not make a $2.5 million contribution to the fund that pays retirement benefits. The money will remain in the general fund and help to stave off other spending cuts.

The retirement fund is fully vested, according to district finance director Aaron Bushberger.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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