CLASS SIZE REDUCTION - by Michelle Stone

    Families with children in the Los Alamitos School District received a letter from the Los Alamitos Unified School District Educational Foundation [Click here for letter] for its “Class Size Reduction” Campaign requesting that each family send in a donation of $225.00 per child in their family to lower class sizes throughout LAUSD.

    What's this all about? As everyone is well aware, the California state fiscal crisis has had a significant impact on education throughout our state. More specifically, budget cuts to education are increasing and school districts in California have had to take drastic steps to reconcile their own shrinking budgets. The Los Alamitos Unified School District (“LAUSD”) is no exception. Over the past two years the state has cut a staggering $18.5 million from LAUSD's operating budget, and unfortunately the cuts will likely continue over the next several years.

    LAUSD is committed to maintain the high quality of education for its students, and because of this, the district first took a proactive approach to address the growing budget constraints such as having teachers, classified staff and management employees take unpaid furlough days, which saved the district $2 million. LAUSD also tapped an additional $2 million from its reserve funds, and have cut and reduced expenditures across the board.

    Unfortunately and despite these measures, LAUSD needs increased parental and community support to maintain reduced class sizes, one of its most important educational principles.

    To achieve this effort, last year the LAUSD Educational Foundation, an independent non-profit organization whose purpose is to provide fundraising for the District that would otherwise be unavailable, teamed together with concerned parents and LAUSD school fundraising groups, and created a Class Size Reduction Committee, whose sole purpose was to help raise funds to reduce class sizes throughout the Los Alamitos School District.

    The results of last year's Class Size Reduction Campaign raised $70,000, allowing the District to implement many class size reductions. LAUSD Elementary Schools received $20,000 and used the funds to hire credentialed teachers to work with small groups during math and language arts instruction in 4th and 5th grades. Each elementary school also received funds ranging from $2,151 - $3,763 per school, based on the size of its 4th and 5th grade classes and designed programs to fit their own unique needs. However, in addition to the $20,000, the District had to tap $2 million in reserve funds to maintain grade level Kindergarten through 3rd grade class sizes at 24 students to 1 teacher. Without these funds, K-3 classrooms would have been 30 students to 1 teacher.

    The Middle and High Schools received $50,000 to support the advanced Math and Foreign Language instruction that some middle school students take at the high school, and six class periods were added in Math, Science, and English at the high school.

    Last year's CSR Campaign success was the effort of partnership, teamwork and a flexibility that allowed each school to determine its best use of the funds. This Class Size Reduction Campaign is important because reduced class sizes allows for more individualized student attention, fewer discipline problems, improved teacher morale, and the development of a stronger sense of student connection to school, teachers, and classmates.

    The CSR Campaign for 2010- 2011 hopes to achieve the goal of class size reduction to 20 students to 1 teacher in grades Kindergarten through 3rd, and a maximum of 35 students to 1 teacher in grades 4th through 12th. Funds received by June 15, 2010 will be used to calculate staffing for the 2010 – 2011 school year. As a measure of impact, every $17,000 raised can add one additional class period at the middle schools or the high school, and every $75,000 raised can add another classroom at an elementary school.

    The Los Alamitos School District is looking to the community and local businesses for further support of their fundraising efforts. To learn more about the CSR Campaign or to make a tax-deductible donation please visit http://www.losaledfoundation.org/ and click on the “Class Size Reduction” tab.