Lawmakers lament class size cost, 'inflexibility'
The state has spent more than $19-billion toward reducing class sizes as constitutionally required, yet when the class size amendment takes effect next year, the state still won't technically be in compliance on a per-class basis, deputy education commissioner Linda Champion told House representatives Tuesday.
Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said the Legislature needs to fix the language so that the state doesn't have to spend billions more.
"We have paid for what should be the full cost of the class size amendment," he said, in what certainly won't be the last debate over how to deal with class size. "But because of the inflexibility of the full implementation of class size, we still are not in compliance. It's going to cause great logistical problems, it's going to cause problems for parents getting their children to school. If we don't fix it, I can promise ou there will be thousands of parents banging on your doors."
Schools currently have to comply with the smaller class sizes on a school average level, but next year compliance will be measured at the class level. Champion told lawmakers that in all three grade groupings from pre-K through 12, a third of classrooms exceed the caps. Yet statewide since 2003, class size on average has been reduced ( by six students for pre k-3, by five students in grades 4 to 8, and by more than three students in grades 9-12.)
"The state of Florida has done its part to reduce class size, and you've seen the numbers," Weatherford said. "Class size is going down. But because of the inflexibility of the amendment, we are facing this problem."