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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Will class size be on the table in 2015?



State lawmakers have made Florida's testing troubles an early priority.

But some members of the Board of Education have at least one other legislative goal for 2015. 

During a meeting Wednesday in Sebring, state Board of Education member Rebecca Fishman Lipsey said she hopes lawmakers will revisit the issue of class size.

School systems across Florida have long had trouble meeting the limits on class size mandated by a 2002 Constitutional amendment. 

They face penalties for each classroom that is not in compliance. 

Meeting those caps can be tricky. My personal favorite anecdote involves Jack Gordon Elementary in Miami-Dade County. The school had the maximum number of students in each of its fourth-grade classes -- until triplets showed up. Suddenly, three classrooms were overcrowded.

Fishman Lipsey said the lack of flexibility was hurting some schools.

"Potentially, there is a way to restructure that amendment that leads to the outcomes that we seek," she said.

State Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand echoed the sentiment.

"It's a bad law," Chartrand said. "The intentions are right, but the end results... Your electives get filled up with more kids than they should."

Chartrand wants schools to be able to submit their average class size instead of the figures for each individual classroom. (Charter schools already have that flexibility because they receive fewer capital dollars than traditional public schools.)

Voters had the option to approve that change in 2010, but a proposed Constitutional amendment failed to get the necessary 60 percent approval.

Chartrand said it would be easier to ask the legislature.

"It would be helpful if we could do it at the legislative level instead of putting it on the ballot, because that's a major campaign and that's a difficult thing to do," he said.

[Last modified: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 2:44pm]


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