Sen. Don Gaetz will push to freeze class size at school average
Sen. Don Gaetz, the Niceville Republican and former schools superintendent, confirmed Wednesday he will propose legislation that freezes implementation of the class size amendment at schoolwide averages, rather than having class size be counted at the individual classroom level.
Gaetz will likely have an ally in Rep. Will Weatherford, who on Tuesday lamented the inflexibility of the class size amendment as written.
Schools currently have to comply with the smaller class sizes on a school average level, and most schools are in compliance. But next year compliance will be measured at the class level. Deputy education commissioner Linda Champion told House lawmakers Tuesday that in all three grade groupings from pre-K through 12, a third of classrooms exceed the caps. Yet statewide since 2003, class size on average has been reduced (by six students for preK-3, by five students in grades 4 to 8, and by more than three students in grades 9 to 12.)
The state already has spent $19 billion toward smaller class sizes, and Gaetz said making implementation reasonable and flexible is both a budget and "operational issue."
"When that third-grader moves in midyear, a principal will have to pull in a portable or send that student to a school many miles away," Gaetz said. "And he has to find a teacher in the middle of the year. You'd see a lot of angry cafeteria meetings, with parents who don't understand why their child has to be moved or sent to the back of school in a portable."