"The stakeholders have agreed"
For years, Florida lawmakers have looked for a way to blunt the impact of the voter-approved 2002 class-size reduction amendment. Education leaders, also worried about how much meeting the requirements might cost, have pushed for changes too.
Working together, they think they've found an answer - one that wouldn't need voter approval.
During a meeting of the House Committee on 21st Century Competitiveness, lawmakers and representatives of various education organizations hashed out a proposal that they suggest would meet the spirit and the word of the amendment without forcing schools to take drastic action whenever the 19th - or 23rd or 26th - student appears, pushing a classroom over the limit.
The plan would have school districts conduct an annual count every fall to determine enrollment. Then schools would have to "true" their classrooms to meet the amendment rules. From that point on, the schools could allow individual classrooms to exceed the class-size limit by up to five students, so long as the school's class-size average does not exceed the law's mandate of 18 in grades K-3, 22 in grades 4-8 or 25 in grades 9-12.
"Do we have to count every day?" said committee chairman state Rep. David Simmons of Altamonte Springs (left), calling such a concept illogical and absurd. "This is just trying to solve everything so we have a rational solution to a very real problem."
Simmons, who has been pressing for class-size amendment changes since 2003, told the Gradebook he plans to have a bill "the stakeholders have agreed on" ready to view within three weeks. He suggested Senate Education chairman Don Gaetz, who has testified about the need to scale back the amendment before the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, is the likely standard bearer for the idea in the Senate.
To see the documents the House committee reviewed, including possible bill language, click here.