Florida Department of Education reduces recommended class size fines by more than $10 million
After the statewide October student count, 35 Florida school districts and 44 charter schools were deemed out of compliance with the state's 2002 class size amendment. The fines, at about $3,000 per student, looked to reach $43 million.
Several districts and charters appealed to commissioner Eric J. Smith, asking for reconsideration. He had the statutory ability to reduce or waive the penalties upon finding they failed to comply despite making every possible effort, or if some emergency circumstances existed.
Heading into next week's Board of Education meeting, Smith has recommended slashing the fines for 19 districts and eliminating them altogether for another 9 (mostly small, rural) districts. Most of the changes were due to findings of unexpected growth in the districts and data errors. The new total would be $31.7 million.
The Manatee district, for instance, saw its potential fine shrink from $1.1 million to just under $258,000. Duval's dropped to $1.45 million from $6.36 million. Among the 44 charter schools, 41 appealed and 38 of those -- including the Plato Academy in Pinellas -- had their fines waived.
Next up is for the Board of Education to accept these calculations, which then would go to the Legislature for approval. Several districts are waiting to see what the lawmakers do before deciding whether to sue over the penalties.