When is 2010? A class-size question that matters
The class-size amendment approved by Florida voters in 2002 states that the Legislature shall ensure that all public schools have enough classrooms to meet the strict class maximums "by the beginning of the 2010 school year."
A FAQ from the Department of Education clarifies the point: "By fall 2010, no classroom in which a core course is taught may contain more students than allowed by the constitutional limits." It's in the implementing legislation that way, too.
Yet as the drumbeat grows louder in Tallahassee to postpone the amendment's final phase -- and the nearly billion-dollar price tag associated with it -- so too does the wiggle room that lawmakers and others involved seek to get around the requirement.
We asked key legislators and Department of Education representatives when in 2010 the schools must have no more than 18 kids in K-3 classes, 22 in grades 4-8, and 25 in high school. They told us, in a nutshell, that they weren't sure if it was Jan. 1, July 1, (the start of the fiscal year), Aug. 23 (the likely first day of school) or even the last day of the 2010-11 school year.
The Legislature needs to clarify this key question, they said.
"We've really got to do something by the end of the 10-11 school year," said Senate Education Appropriations chairman Steve Wise, who's working on a bill that's likely to become the accepted Senate plan.
Maybe that's just wishful thinking, so if lawmakers decide to put the matter before voters they don't have to spend extra money on a special election. The next scheduled election is Aug. 24, 2010 -- a day after the amendment is supposed to take full effect (at least according to our reading of all the mandate).