Image: barely trueStatement: “Class sizes are exploding. They’re looking at 30 kids per teacher ratio in kindergarten through third grade next year,” San Diego Unified school board candidate Kevin Beiser said at a school board candidates forum May 20.

Determination: Barely True

Analysis: Keeping class sizes small is a centerpiece of Beiser’s campaign for school board. During our debate, Beiser said he’d back a parcel tax to avert a coming explosion in class sizes.

But Beiser was a little bit off on class size increases. Classes now hover around 24 students per teacher in the youngest grades and won’t rise to 30 students next school year, according to both the school district and the teachers union. But San Diego Unified has indicated it could happen in the future.

How? In a budget report for the school board this March, San Diego Unified said it might increase its K-3 class sizes to help balance its budget for the following 2011-2012 school year. Kindergarten classes would grow as large as 29.7 students per teacher, close to what Beiser said.

The same report says class sizes in grades 1 through 3 would be at “maximum allowed.” What does that mean? The teachers union contract says in grades 1 and 2, classes can’t exceed an average size of 25.5 students and grade 3 can’t exceed an average of 31.

Individual classes can vary in size, but these rules mean that San Diego Unified can’t make classes with 30 students the norm in grades 1 or 2. So the school district has reported that in two years, it’s possible that class sizes could swell to 30 students in kindergarten and in grade 3, but not in between.

However, it’s important to note that budget reports for two years in the future are preliminary. The same list also includes such extreme options as eliminating all librarians and vice principals, which school board members say they plan to avoid if at all possible.

Though Beiser got the timing and some of the details wrong on a coming class size increase, we’re dubbing this as barely true since the larger point that Beiser is making — that the school district is considering significantly larger classes in the future — is rooted in fact.

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Summer Polacek was formerly the Development Manager at Voice of San Diego.

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