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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Class size compliance: The penalties

12

October

With class size compliance day upon us for Florida schools, many school district officials haven't hesitated to tell us that the penalty for failure to meet the standard is steep, and that it's a struggle to get there. Then comes the plug for Amendment 8, which would relax the rules.

But let's step back a minute to examine exactly what the penalties are.

In the 2010 legislative session, lawmakers revamped the accountability piece of the class size rules to set a fine of approximately $3,000 per FTE student over the caps, to be taken from a district's categorical funding. That could mean millions, as they threaten, but it also could mean much less.

If districts submit a plan by Feb. 15 to show how they will comply by the following year, they stand to get some — maybe even most — of the money back. 

The penalty could shrink even further, if the education commissioner sees that the district has been trying:

"If the Commissioner of Education has evidence that a district was unable to meet the class size requirements despite appropriate efforts to do so or because of an extreme emergency, the Commissioner may recommend by February 15, subject to approval of the Legislative Budget Commission, the reduction of an alternate amount of funds from the district's class size categorical allocation."

In the past, the commissioner has waived a portion of the penalties, and the language makes clear he could do that again.

So are the penalties so onerous as to make the passage of Amendment 8 a critical necessity, as some have argued? Perhaps not. Maybe complying with class size rules is just hard work, and as the polls have shown, most Floridians are okay with that.

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 9:00am]

    

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