Budget cuts affect Hayward class sizes

February 12, 2009 5:59:07 PM PST
The Hayward School District is the first in Alameda County and among the first in California to drop its class size reduction program. Money, and not enought of it, is the reason. What impact will this have on children and teachers?

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A whole generation of Hayward students has learned in small classrooms. The program began in 1996.

"Having small classrooms, being able to work in small groups and be able to access children at the level they are in, is a very powerful thing," said teacher Marta Jaime.

California has never fully funded class size reduction. School districts like Hayward Unified have been left to pick up the extra costs.

"It costs $11.2 million to fund class size reduction and the state gives us $7 million so we are left to underwrite the other $4.2 million, and it was just a large expense on the budget," said Val Joyner with Hayward Unified.

So large, the school board voted 3-2 to do away with the program. Now, Hayward schools K-3 will have as many as 32 students in the classroom. This also means pink slips for some teachers.

"About 130 teachers will be laid off," said Kathleen Crummey with Hayward Education Association.

Now that the program will be cut, the district is wondering whether it was ever successful.

"We haven't found any conclusive evidence to show that class size reduction has had a positive effect on student achievement," said Joyner.

In fact, a 2001 study by the Rand Institute found no relationship between student achievement and class size reduction. Yet, other studies suggest English learners benefit from small classes.

By eliminating class size reduction and other expenses, Hayward was able to cut its $18 million budget deficit in half. Teachers and parents are now wondering what other cuts will follow.

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