A majority of the members of the D.C. Board of Education committee that votes on the school budget said yesterday that they will attempt to avoid increasing class sizes to save money, but predicted there will have to be some layoffs of teachers and school administrators in the 1980-81 school year.
School Superintendent Vincent E. Reed has proposed eliminating 893 jobs -- more than 700 of them teaching positions -- and increasing the pupil-teaching ratio in grades one through six from 26 to 1 to 28 to 1.
The proposed cuts are necessary, Reed said, because Mayor Marion Barry and the City Council approved and sent to Congress a school budget that is $27 million less than what the system says it needs.
Three of the four finance committee members -- chairman John E. Warren, Carol Schwartz and Eugene Kinlow -- supported Reed's proposal to reduce the number of administrative positions, agreeing that the school system is top-heavy with administrators.
"We will not have all the reductions fall on teachers," Warren said. One justification Reed cited as a basis for proposing teacher layoffs is a projection that student enrollment in the public schools is expected to drop by about 7,500 to 99,000 in the next school year.
But Warren said, "One could come up with the logic that there is therefore a need for fewer teachers. "I resist efforts to follow that logic."
Warren called Reed's plan to increase class sizes in the elementary schools a "mockery of education." However, none of the three finance committee members said they were prepared now to offer a alternatives to Reed's proposals.
Board member Bettie Benjamin, the fourth finance committee member, was attending a conference and could not be reached for comment.
Kinlow said the board may have to look at some "long-range" solutions to its budget problems. He suggested that one "item for discussion" might be retraining regular classroom teachers to perform the duties of certain specialists, such as art and physical education teachers.
He said a proposal like this, as well as other budget-cutting options, would have to be discussed with the school system's labor unions.
"It's going to be a long, tough process," to make the decisions, Kinlow said.
The school board is going to have to move quickly on these decisions since this is the time of year school officials begin planning their programs for the upcoming school year.
No plans have been made to hold public hearings on the proposed cuts.
School board officials will go before Congress next month to attempt to restore the funds cut by the city Council.
R. Calvin Lockridge, school board president and ex-officio member of the finance committee, called teacher layoffs "a reality, a given . . . unless Congress sees fit to increase school funds."
Often in previous years, Congress has reduced the school budget even further than the City Council. This year, prospects for increased funding seem even bleaker since the District of Columbia government is facing an overall budget deficit of more than $172 million for the current fiscal year.
School system officials also anticipate a $29 million shortfall in the 1979-80 budget. So far, the finance committee has identified areas where $23 million can be saved in this year's budget by eliminating some positions, reducing staff and cutting back on repairs and the purchase of new equipment.
Meanwhile, the Washington Teachers Union is organizing its own lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill, according to union president William Simons.
"It's too soon to panic," Simons said he is telling the teachers.
Simons said he agrees that administrative positions in the system can be cut back. He said he would favor reducing from six to two the system's six regional offices. These offices were opened a few years back to bring school officials closer to the communities they serve.
Reed has proposed decreasing the number of regions from six to four and eliminating 40 positions in them to save $951,973.
Simons also suggested that in the light of enrollment decreases the board should consider closing some schools and that the buildings and property be sold to provide needed money for the school system. School closings always are a politically sensitive issue, and the board has refused to close any for the past two years, despite proposals from Superintendent Reed that they do so.
Most of the reductions Reed has proposed are in personnel, since enploye salaries account for about 88 percent of the system's expenditures.
Kinlow noted that seriousness of the school system's financial state is reflected in the fact that Reed has always argued in the past the he needs more administrative help to make the system run more smoothly. "Now he's proposing the cutbacks," Kinlow said. In addition to the personnel cuts, Reed has proposed reducing the prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds from full-day to half-day to save $1.7 million. He also has recommended cutting back on adult education classes to reduce the budget by $320,000.
Schwartz said she would oppose any cutback in the prekindgarten program since it helps the District of Columbia's economically disadvantaged students get an early start in their schooling and helps attract working parents from the middle- and upper-middle classes to the public schools.