Four groups Thursday asked the Lawrence school district's budget committee for a combined $708,000 to hire additional staff and support district programs.
The largest piece of that pie $558,000 would be spent to hire 14 teachers necessary to reduce class sizes in all Lawrence first-grade classrooms to 17 or fewer students. The cost of the initiative could be reduced with federal grants.
Currently, more than half the first-graders in the district are in classes of 18 or more students.
Teachers Barb Thompson and Wayne Kruse told the committee that research showed reducing class size improved student performance in reading and math, reduced child behavior problems and enhanced teacher morale.
"They feel better," Kruse said. "They really feel they're making a difference."
Supt. Randy Weseman said he witnessed a "certain kind of calmness" this year in the 22 first-grade classrooms with fewer than 17 children.
Seventeen of the district's first-grade classes have 18 to 20 students, while six classes have 20 to 25 children.
"It really is better with less kids," Thompson said. "We all know it. It's common sense."
The committee made no decision regarding any of the funding requests. Other proposals before the panel:
$123,000 to hire the equivalent of 9.5 library assistants.
$14,125 to employ a clerical aide and support activities of substance abuse counselors.
$13,300 to increase hours paraprofessionals work each week with elementary students struggling with reading.