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Janssen: Pinellas can't afford to meet class-size requirements



The Pinellas school district may need to hire as many as 500 teachers to meet the next and final stage of the class-size amendment, district officials told The Gradebook today. And Superintendent Julie Janssen says the district simply can't afford it.

"There is no money to do that," she said in a speech yesterday to the Seminole Chamber of Commerce.

Janssen told chamber members that the district would need to hire about 200 teachers, but district spokeswoman Andrea Zahn said today that the number - though a moving target - could be as high as 500. Whatever the exact number, Janssen's remarks offered the first indication of the financial impact that Pinellas faces in getting down to the classroom by classroom counts that must be in place in the fall.

A single new teacher costs the district $50,300 in salary and benefits. So 200 new teachers would cost $10.6 million; 500 new teachers, $25.2 million. The district is already looking at a $53 million deficit when the federal stimulus money runs out at the end of the 2010-11 school year.

Janssen told chamber members that average class sizes in Pinellas, before the class size amendment passed in 2002, were 20-22 students in elementary schools, 28-29 students in middle schools and 29-30 in high schools. (The amendment, of course, requires no more than 18 students in grades K-3, 22 in grades 4-8 and 25 in grades 9-12.) "Somehow, there was this misunderstanding or misconception that we had 50, 60, 70 kids in a class," she said.

As she has before, Janssen pushed for more flexibility in the amendment, to essentially set the caps as a school-wide average (plus or minus three or four students in each class). "We're creating a mess by having these absolutes," she said.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:51am]


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