Teachers, district reach tentative deal on class size

Teachers, district reach tentative deal on class size

Michele Ellson

Alameda’s teachers and school district leaders said they have reached a tentative agreement on class sizes, though neither side would offer details of the plan. Teachers are slated to vote on the deal Thursday and Friday, Alameda Education Association president Gray Harris said.

The accord was reached following several late-night rounds of mediation.

Teachers agreed in 2009 to temporarily allow class sizes to grow from 20 to 25 students per teacher in order to help the district balance its budget as state funding, which is the district’s main funding source, became increasingly unstable. But that agreement was set to expire at the end of this school year.

Teachers had proposed reducing class sizes back down to 20 students per teacher but district officials balked, asking the state to declare an impasse and call in a mediator to try to settle the class size dispute.

The teacher’s union submitted a proposal on February 27 allowing the district to keep class sizes in kindergarten through third grade at 25 students per teacher for the next three years and lowering the classes to a maximum of 20 students after that. The proposal called for limiting classes containing students in grades 4-8 to 30 students per teacher and high school students, 33 students per teacher.

Under the proposal, teachers handling combination classes with more than one grade would face lower maximums, and no elementary school class – including physical education and music – would top 32 students.

Teachers had argued that money from the Measure A parcel tax should fund the smaller classes, though Superintendent Kirsten Vital and some of her supporters in the community argued that it listed class size maximums of 25. Teachers and administrators have battled publicly over the district’s finances, with teachers saying the district should spend some of its millions in reserve and administrators saying they need to hang on to the cash to weather state funding storms.