School board members agreed to seek state waivers allowing the Murrieta Valley Unified School District to increase class sizes next school year.
The vote came after a held Thursday during a regularly scheduled board meeting, and means classes sizes could increase in grades kindergarten through eighth—should that route need to be taken.
"This is a safeguard against what could happen in November," said Stacy Coleman, assistant superintendent of business services. "We are at a 29.1 average right now and we've had the class-size waivers in place for the last two years."
The current waivers expire June 30.
Coleman said if the district did not resubmit the waivers to the California Department of Education, it could face penalties in the way of decreased revenue for each student that exceeded the set limits.
CDE limits average class sizes to 31 in kindergarten, 30 in grades first through third and 29.9 in grades fourth through eighth. The state department began allowing districts to file the waivers in 2010 due to budget cutbacks on education funding.
The district has lost $95 million in state revenue over the last four years. It is entering its fifth year of the budget crisis, Coleman said. for 2012-2013, which prompted the district to seek pay concessions from its and unions. District management and the school board also agreed to take pay cuts.
Public educators throughout the state are waiting to see whether tax increases will be approved by voters in November, which would offset cuts to education.
In the meantime, the class-size waivers will allow the district—should it need to—to increase its maximum kindergarten class size to 33, first through third grades to 32, and fourth through eighth grades to 35.
"We don't really believe we are going to be hitting those numbers, but those are the rules of the game, if you will, to maintain our fiscal solvency," Coleman said.
One member of the public spoke during the hearing Thursday. Dr. Alan Styles said he has two children who attend schools in the district: a 10-year-old at Monte Vista Elementary and a 12-year-old at Dorothy McElhinney Middle School.
Styles said he serves on the site council at Monte Vista, and understands administrators have been faced with "undesirable" budget decisions.
He said these budget decisions, such as one to were producing ripple effects on the community.
"The financial implications of this could affect families," Styles said, because they would have make other arrangements for their children on those days.
Styles presented a list of suggestions to the district for "improving the debate regarding education funding" in the district and statewide.
These included providing a "layman's" format of budget assumptions, and providing it in a community newsletter and through the media; providing informational sessions to parents and constituents at individual school sites; and establishing a citizen task force to help provide information on the budget crisis to the community.
Styles said he offered the suggestions "in the spirit of increasing the information provided to citizens."
Board members encouraged community involvement.
"I think it will take an uprising of parents who are well-informed to take this up with elected officials," said Board member Margi Wray.
"There are 121 people in this state who decide where the money goes to," said Board member Kris Thomasian.