Michael Loomis: Class-size funds

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— A recent letter from Melissa VanArsdale regarding the "murky debate" about class size puts the spotlight on the wrong governing board. Melissa, and the group of parents who presented the letter to the Board of Education continue to point to the Education Fund Board on the issue of class size, which has nothing to do with the decisions about class-size policy in the Steamboat Springs School District.

For those who are unfamiliar with the way the education fund operates, requests for funding come to the Fund Board through one of three commissions: education excellence, capital or technology. The commissions bring forth requests, submitted by the administration, teachers, staff or an outside organization, and the Fund Board only has two options: to allocate the funds or not. According to its by-laws, the Fund Board cannot initiate a gift, nor can it increase the size of the gift, whether it be for class-size reduction or any other program. The Fund Board consistently and unanimously has allocated and gifted about 25 percent of its annual budget to help fund smaller class size in our schools ($800,000 in 2008-09), which is exactly what has been requested by the administrative team via the education excellence commission. In several years of voting on the Fund Board, I cannot recall a vote on funding for small class size that did not have unanimous support.

If parents want explanations for current class sizes, they should continue to address these issues with the BOE and the superintendent, not the Fund Board. Class-size figures quoted from the Fund Board Web site were provided, upon request, by the school district last year. They were deemed to be accurate at the time.

To be clear, the Fund Board has absolutely no power or control over class-size policy, teacher allocation, class scheduling or any other policies of the school district. The Fund Board tries to avoid funding gifts that would be counter to the policies of the BOE, as the BOE has the right to accept or reject each gift. One of the rare instances of a gift being rejected involved additional funds to further reduce class size, which ran counter to the policy and philosophy of that Board.

I agree with Melissa, that small class size is of critical importance in our schools, especially at the K-5 grade levels, and should remain a top funding priority for the Education Fund, but the power to change the current policy and practice of the district lies with the members of the BOE and the superintendent, not the Fund Board.

Michael Loomis, Member at Large, Education Fund Board

Steamboat Springs

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