Staff editorial: District to face further budget cuts, should increase class sizes over cutting programs

January 13, 2011 — by Staff Board

It’s time to face the harsh reality. The Los Gatos Saratoga Union High School District is projecting a deficit of nearly $942,000 for the 2011-2012 school year and more deficits in the years beyond. Though a parcel tax that voters are likely to see on a special ballot this spring may raise significant funding toward bridging this gap, the school has already dipped into financial reserves, and the district will most likely have to make cuts in the years ahead no matter what.

The decision over cuts presents a tough problem: whether to increase class sizes across the board, or to make targeted cuts to a specific program or positions. Essentially, the choice comes down to having as many as 35 or 40 students in history and math classes or perhaps cutting popular electives like drama or music programs.

While both options present possible benefits and detriments, increasing class sizes is the better choice.

The school’s current budget situation won’t last forever. With prudent budgeting and practical decision-making now, the school board can circumvent fiscal problems that may arise down the line.
Cutting programs now is akin to throwing money down an ever expanding hole. This choice only serves to undermine the quality of education by reducing class variety and letting go of the very teachers who comprise the crux of the school.

Although cutting programs would solve the financial problem, these programs would be much more difficult to resurrect once the budget situation has stabilized. For example, if the school were to cut the drama program, all the drama students would not have the opportunity to take the class. In addition, if the school were to revive the program, they would have to rebuild it from scratch. Decreasing class sizes, on the other hand, is an easy task in the future when the district has sufficient funds.

Of course, neither increased class sizes nor targeted cuts to programs are decisions that should be taken lightly. The only way to weather this budgetary storm is to stick together. That will necessitate compromises by the administration, students and staff. In the long term, the school will be better off for trying to preserve the rich diversity of programs that have made Saratoga and Los Gatos High School places where parents want to send their children.

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