Since the spring of 2007, faced with state budget realities that have repeatedly translated to multimillion-dollar budget cuts, the Santa Barbara School Districts Board of Education has labored to protect a policy that keeps student-to-teacher ratios for 9th grade English and math classes to a 20:1 ratio. And while circumstances have seen that number eroded to various degrees in recent years, the two areas of study have — thanks in large part to the voter-approved Measure H parcel tax in 2008 — remained staffed at a ratio well below the 35:1 currently used in all other high school classes. But the luck may be running out if the district’s high school principals get their way.
Prompted by a letter signed by the principals from all four high schools requesting that, in the name of making master schedules at the respective schools easier to balance and minimizing the drain on categorical funding that such mandated ratios inflict, the board consider allowing a 28:1 ratio for English and math classes. (Currently, math averages out at 20:1 and English has a max of 25:1).
Despite the plea from the principals, the board was skeptical about making such a move when the matter was discussed at last week’s board meeting for a variety of reasons. Chief among them was the potential that such a move would violate the mandate created by Measure H. Staff have been instructed to go back to the recordings of the meeting when Measure H’s language was drafted and determine what exactly the spirit of the word “restore” was. Though the matter will ultimately be decided by the Measure H Citizen Oversight Committee, District Superintendent Brian Sarvis opined this week that, based on his memory, “My guess is that we will be staying at the lower ratios currently in use.”