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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Should parents, teachers have option to opt out of Florida class size requirements?



Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Oakstead Elementary School in Pasco County made one thing clear: Continued financial stresses make it hard for Florida's schools to meet state class size requirements.

Biden noted after visiting a class of 25 fifth graders that the rules allow only 22, meaning "they are in violation of state law." He used the opportunity to tout a jobs bill that would pour more money into teaching positions, so class sizes could shrink.

One key Florida lawmaker who's been critical of the 2002 class size amendment's requirements has a different idea.

"What if we wrote a law giving teachers and parents an option to opt out of class size?" said state Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who pushed a failed 2010 referendum to scale back the amendment.

He noted that many parents often say they would not mind having their children attend class with certain teachers regardless of class size, and that many teachers have commented that they could handle larger classes. If everyone agrees and signs a document saying so, why not, he wondered.

"It's an issue worth considering," Weatherford said. "I don't know the constitutionality of it."

Last year, the Legislature removed hundreds of courses from the amendment's requirements by saying they no longer count as core curriculum. Those courses have grown in size as a result. Many district officials have lamented the difficulty of meeting the mandate regardless, with some including Pasco saying they will try but only within their budget realities.

[Last modified: Friday, October 7, 2011 12:09pm]


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