Class sizes likely rising

Glendale News Press

GLENDALE — Days after Glendale Unified teachers rejected a revised contract that would have saved the district millions of dollars, school board members on Tuesday said increased class sizes were all but certain unless a last-minute deal was reached.

Without a contract resolution for the district's roughly 1,350 teachers, board members said they could not commit to maintaining primary-grade class sizes at 25 students.

"I'm very sorry we're not at a point where we can make that decision yet," board member Christine Walters said. "We have such huge question marks. I don't see how we can make a decision."

District officials had been considering maintaining 25 students to every one teacher in kindergarten and first grade and increasing that ratio to 30 to 1 for second and third grade.

With the fiscal year ending this month, board members must balance a budget through 2012-13, where a $21.8-million deficit looms. The latest figure accounts for all state cuts, district spending plans and ongoing union negotiations, Chief Financial Officer Eva Lueck said.

District officials estimated saving almost $12 million from the proposed contract, which called for 16 furlough days and increased employee contributions to health-care costs. The contract was defeated last week by more than 100 votes.

The draft budget preserves the $4.2 million in a campus maintenance account, which board members have resisted sweeping into the General Fund, which pays for teacher salaries — a move that has drawn criticism from the Glendale Teachers Assn.

"I ask you — take $5 million from deferred maintenance and keep kindergarten through third-grade classes small, as they were when some of the children of the board members here attended Glendale schools," said union President Tami Carlson.

The school board must adopt a budget by June 30, and district officials are trying to order year-end storage boxes and new classroom furniture. But they said they do not want to spend resources when the financial picture remains uncertain.

"The sand is running out of the jar," board President Greg Krikorian said.

Among the considerations for the upcoming budget is reducing staffing at middle and high schools. One full-time teacher position would be eliminated for every 1,000 students. Roosevelt Middle School would be spared because it qualifies for specific federal funds, and its academic achievement is monitored by county officials.

Board members would also likely leave the retiring guidance counselor position vacant at Daily High School, the district's alternative high school.

District officials proposed sweeping $5 million from workers' compensation, school safety grants, retiree health insurance funds and restricted maintenance into the General Fund, which covers employee salaries, health benefits and some programs.

"Employee benefits and compensation represent a large portion of the district's budget," incoming Supt. Dick Sheehan said. "Until we are able to reach an agreement with the Glendale Teachers Assn. to contain costs, particularly with health benefits, we cannot afford to move toward a 25-to-1 [student-teacher] ratio."

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