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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Class-size amendment moves forward



TALLAHASSEE -- An effort to ease the state’s constitutional limit on class sizes gained steam Wednesday, with a House council approving the measure in a partisan vote that emphasized the Republican party's majority numbers.

The House Education Policy Council's five Democrats voted against the measure without success. The vote follows the Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee's support for the amendment, which passed that panel 6-1  Tuesday.

The amendment seeks to allow schools to use the average class size to meet the standard as long as the school added no more than three students to each class through third grade, and five students to each class in grades 4-12.

The measure would need 72 votes in the House and 24 in the Senate; the GOP has 76 House seats and 26 in the Senate.

Then, it would need 60 percent of the vote in a statewide November ballot to pass. Proponents say the constitutional limit has put an administrative and financial strain on school districts, which have struggled to keep class sizes small amid fluctuating enrollment. The state has spent more than $2.8 billion a year meeting the standards.

If left unchanged, the 2002 amendment would limit core curriculum classes in the coming school year to 18 students through third grade; classes in grades 4-8 would be limited to 22 students; and high school classes couldn’t have more than 25 students.

The strain of meeting the requirement forces school districts to eliminate extracurricular activities and frequently divide classrooms, said Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami.

“We could put our entire budget into class size and it would not fix the situation,” she said during Wednesday's  meeting.

Opponents argued that relaxing the measures would set back performance gains seen since voters approved the amendment in 2002.

"Socialization is much easier and is facilitated in a smaller class size," said Rep. Bill Heller, D-St. Petersburg.
Cristina Silva, Times staff writer



[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:50am]


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