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Adjusting Class Size Limits Could Save Cincinnati Schools Millions
Columbus – Increasing class size limits for grades K-3 is one of several steps the Cincinnati City School District (Hamilton County) can take to save more than $11.3 million, according to a performance audit released today by Auditor of State Dave Yost.
The district caps its K-3 class sizes at 18 students – nine fewer than the peer average of 27. In fiscal year 2016, 85 percent of the district’s K-3 classrooms were over the student limit, with an average of 22.4 students per class. The below-average class-size limit results in a high percentage of overfilled classrooms and in return, a great amount of teachers are eligible for overload payments or classroom aides.
“A quality education can still be achieved with a few extra students in class,” Auditor Yost said. “The school district needs to rework its class size limits and overload practices to cut some of its excessive costs.”
When a K-3 class surpasses the 18-student limit, the district gives teachers the choice to receive an overload payment or have a classroom aide. With 316 classroom aides dedicated to overload, the district spent an estimated $8.54 million on salaries and benefits in fiscal year 2016. The district spent an estimated $1.76 million on overload payments.
Compared to its peers, the district is more generous when calculating compensation for overload payments. Eligible teachers earn $135 per student over the class size limit, but because the payments are made for each class period up to a maximum of four periods, a teacher can earn up to $540 per student each quarter, totaling $2,160 per student in a year.
If the district increases its K-3 class size limit to the peer average of 27 students, it could save $7,005,300 annually. As an alternative, the district could save $5,890,200 per year by implementing the report’s recommendations for restructuring its overload program.
Specifically, the district could increase the K-3 class size limit to 23 students and eliminate the option for teachers to decide between overload payments or classroom aides. Instead, the district could pay teachers for each student exceeding the 23-student limit, up to a maximum of 25, and provide classroom aides when class sizes reach 26 students. Additionally, the district could calculate overload payments at a rate of $135 for each eligible student per quarter, eliminating the “per period” component of the equation.
The district’s class size limits and overload structure are components of the collective bargaining agreement with its teachers, meaning any adjustment is subject to successful negotiations. The current agreement is effective through June 30, 2017. Negotiations are scheduled to begin on Dec. 1, 2016.
In consultation with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), the Auditor’s office initiated a performance audit to help the district improve its financial condition. The district’s May 2016 five-year forecast projected a deficit of more than $243 million by fiscal year 2020, a level that exceeds 50 percent of expected revenues for that year.
A full copy of this performance audit is available online.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,900 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.
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