Step 1: No penalties for missing class size rules
Florida education commissioner Eric J. Smith won't be forcing school districts (none local) that failed to meet the class-size amendment to shift $570,000 from general operations to construction, as the law allows him to do.
"Granting these waivers seemed to be the most appropriate action to take given these circumstances," Smith said in an e-mail to the Gradebook. "Based on the reductions districts experienced earlier this year we didn't want to take more from their overextended budgets."
But what of next year?
The 2002 amendment sets a firm compliance deadline of 2010, and school officials across Florida are still balking.
With the economy in such tatters that the commissioner can't justify a shift of about a half-million dollars, how can the state come up with the estimated $284 million needed to build the 831 classrooms necessary to meet the class by class counts set in the Constitution?
Key education lawmakers have signaled that a delay in implementation is likely for the second straight year. But they also tell the Gradebook that complying by 2010 is the "big one" on the budget horizon for Florida.
Getting 60 percent of voters to change the amendment to reflect what research has shown works, as many organizations have suggested, looks highly unlikely. Yet ponying up the money to pay for full implementation -- especially after two years of delay -- could be insurmountable. Stay tuned.