Class Size Reduction (CSR)
Class Size Reduction (CSR), an incentive program to reduce class size in early grades, began in California in 1996. Participating schools, which must maintain a ratio of one teacher per group of 20 students or fewer, receive a special allocation of funds from the state. CSR classes must be conducted in separate classrooms to ensure funding and schools may choose to provide either a full day with small classes or a half day (with partial funding).
The program applies to grades K-3. In 1997-98 the state also authorized funding to expand an existing program to reduce class sizes in two grade 9 courses: English and one other core academic subject: mathematics, science, or history/social science. In 2009, in response to extraordinary economic circumstances, state leaders loosened the penalties on districts for exceeding the K-3 CSR program's student/teacher ratio. The new penalties apply from 2008-09 through 2011-12. State leaders also made the grade 9 funding flexible from 2008-09 through 2012-13, eliminating the requirement for reduced class sizes during that period.
K-3 Funding and Participation
CSR represents a substantial state investment. In 2009-10 the total allocation for the program was $1.83 billion. These funds are provided to districts based on the number of K-3 students who attend school in reduced-size classes. The funding, which is adjusted annually based on the cost of living, is about $1,000 per pupil (or half that amount for half-day programs).
Almost all of the state's 883 eligible districts in 2007-08 participated in the program. In 2007-08 869 districts plus 240 charter schools offered CSR classes, most with a full-day program. The number of CSR classes grew steadily from the initial 51,612 in 1996-97 until 2002-03, when 98,110 classes participated. However there has been a slow decline in subsequent years, with 92,087 classes in 2007-08.
Ninth Grade Funding and Participation
In 2009-10 the state apportioned $107 million for 9th grade CSR. In 2007-08 about 950 schools in 265 districts were in the high school program.
Class Size Reduction, K-3 (Senate Bill 1777, 1996)
In 1996, the Legislature created the Class Size Reduction (CSR) program, which provided incentives for school districts to reduce K-3 classes to a pupil-teacher ratio of no more than 20 to 1. This legislation originally provided annual incentive funding of $650 for each student in a smaller class and an option of $325 for students in a staggered session in which the pupil-teacher ratio is no more than 20 to 1 for half the day. The next year these incentives were increased and annual inflation adjustments were added. A one-time allocation of $25,000 per added classroom was also made available for full-day classes to improve facilities or acquire portable classrooms.
The legislation also specified that if a classroom exceeded an enrollment of 20.44 students-based on the number of students between the start of the school year and April 15-the district would lose its entire CSR apportionment for that classroom.
Modifications to the original legislation
Senate Bill 311, which became law in 2004, reduced the penalty if a school modestly exceeded the annual cap. A 21.85 student average was the new maximum that triggered the full penalty (forfeiting all funds), with interim deductions of 20%, 40%, and 80% for each one-half student above the 20.44 class average.
That changed in 2009 with the passage of the revised 2008-10 budget. The full penalty, for an average of 24.95 and above, results in a loss of 30% of funds, with interim deductions of 5%, 10%, 15%, and 20%.
Class Size Reduction, 9th Grade (1998)
Two years after the original K-3 Class Size Reduction (CSR), the California Legislature expanded an existing high school CSR program to concentrate on high school freshmen. To qualify for the incentive, high schools must offer one or two ninth-grade courses with an average of 20 students per teacher and a maximum of 22 per participating class. This bill also requires that one of the courses be in English while the other can be in mathematics, science, or social studies. Programs that are excluded from participating in this program include Special Education classes and Necessary Small Schools
These requirements are waived from 2008-09 through 2012-13 under the flexibility granted to this program by lawmakers in 2009.