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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Preliminary class size penalties issued to Florida school districts



Of all the schools in our coverage area of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties, just one -- Plato Academy charter school in Pinellas -- didn't make class size in the October state count. Its possible penalty is just $1,403, indicating the school only barely missed the mark.

Statewide, the landscape was less positive. More than half the school districts failed to comply with the 2002 amendment, generating more than $40 million in accumulated fines. (See the attached lists for details.) That amount is sure to shrink as districts submit plans to meet the rules next fall, and also as they appeal the validity of the rulings.

Florida education commissioner Eric J. Smith is reviewing all submitted appeals and expects to recommend the final penalties to the State Board of Education on Jan. 18. He can suggest reduced fines for districts that made every effort to comply but failed, or for those that faced unforeseen emergencies.

If the penalties remain intact, the Florida School Boards Association and several school districts already have conferred with lawyers about suing the Legislature over them. And keep an eye out as well for legislation aimed once again at easing the class size rules, which many districts have said are too restrictive and expensive to meet daily.

[Last modified: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 3:58pm]


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