Today's the day: Are Florida's schools meeting class size rules?
Today marks the final day of Florida's fall student count. In the past, the annual fall survey passed by without notice. This year, lots of people are watching as the results will determine whether the state's school districts are in full compliance with the final phase of the 2002 class size amendment.
Districts face penalties of about $3,000 per student over the cap, which is set at a classroom level for the first time. Many have made every effort to avoid the fines and to meet the mark. Others have decided that the class size amendment doesn't jibe with their notion of providing a high quality public education, so they aren't planning to fully comply.
We've asked all 67 Florida superintendents via e-mail where their districts stand. (All estimates require state verification.) Here's what we have so far:
In compliance: Pasco, Escambia, Monroe, Polk, Hernando, Clay, Charlotte, Gulf, Orange, Hillsborough, Pinellas, St. Lucie, Franklin, Citrus, Bay, Bradford, Hardee, Seminole, Jackson, Okeechobee, Volusia, Brevard, Sumter, Jefferson
Not in compliance: Manatee, Sarasota, Hamilton, Taylor, Madison, Liberty, Leon
Still calculating: Okaloosa, Santa Rosa
Manatee superintendent Tim McGonegal said his district spent about $4 million trying to meet the mandate. But in some instances, he continued, it just couldn't happen while still allowing schools to provide the education that students deserve, including plenty of electives and academic choices.
"If 27 students sign up for an Advanced Placement singleton course in a high school, we are allowing all 27 students to take the course," he wrote. "Our principals and guidance counselors make great decisions for students. The class size requirement measured at the classroom level requires principals to make decisions based upon available slots instead of student needs."
The debate continues heading toward the Nov. 2 election, when Florida voters will have the opportunity to decide Amendment 8, which would allow schools to set class sizes by an average rather than classroom by classroom. Yesterday we shared a video opposing the amendment from No on 8. Today we offer the latest Yes on 8 ad. It suggests that the "19th child" would be forced to move schools to find a seat, which isn't necessarily the case. Most districts aren't closing their doors on full schools. Expect the rhetoric to continue until the votes are cast.