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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Class size compliance hard to come by for some Florida school districts



Florida school district officials continue to crunch the numbers to determine whether their individual classrooms complied with the 2002 class size amendment by the end of last week.

Many made it. But many others fell short. The Miami Herald reports that Broward and Miami-Dade got 96-97 percent of their classrooms to the target levels, for instance. Superintendents continue to e-mail and call the Gradebook to update their status.

Liberty County missed by one classroom, two students, superintendent Sue Summers told the Gradebook. Leon County expects to have met the standard in all secondary classes, but not in elementary, superintendent Jackie Pons reported.

"You had to look at not only what is in the constitution, but also at what is best for your students," Pons said.

He was not willing to freeze children out of neighborhood schools because of class size, and also found the expense of hiring extra teachers too high for the relatively small number of students over the caps, who were spread across several grade levels and several schools.

Pons and others worried that maintaining class levels -- particularly without proper funding and punitive fines -- would take attention away from education. Even though the state has just one official count a year, some school lawyers have pointed out that families might sue at any time if their child's class doesn't meet the rules.

Okaloosa superintendent Alexis Tibbets wrote that her district appeared close to compliance, but only "with great sacrifice to many other programs, and we have used reserves that will not again be available for this purpose.  We made these sacrifices due to the large penalties imposed by legislators for districts in noncompliance this year in the October count.  Some of the sacrifices made to accomplish class size in our district have been school closures, elimination of certain school based programs, privatization of food service, reducing educational support staff, decreasing school based and district administration, and reducing HRA employee benefits."

Districts have until mid-November to work with the state to ensure the accuracy of their counts. After the final determination comes, districts will have through January to appeal. Those that failed to meet class size rules will have until Feb. 15 to submit plans to the DOE stating how they will comply by the October 2011 count.

The big asterisk is if voters change the amendment. With most polls showing support for Amendment 8 below 40 percent, though, that's not looking likely.

[Last modified: Monday, October 18, 2010 10:02am]


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