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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Plan to ease class size mandates moves forward



The Florida Senate Pre-K-12 budget subcommittee unanimously approved a proposal Thursday that would make it easier for school districts to meet class-size requirements.

Senate Bill 1466, sponsored by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, would change the definition of core courses so that fewer classes would have to follow the class-size cap. It would also loosen the cap so schools could temporarily have three to five more students per classroom.

Those additional students would only be allowed after October, when schools carry out their class-size counts. Schools would have to present a plan to be in compliance with the mandates by the following October.

"This provides a pragmatic and rational method of dealing with the class-size requirements of the constitution," Simmons said. "There is no requirement under the constitution that there be a count done…seven days a week."

School district representatives at Thursday's meeting, including some from Hillsborough and Orange counties, supported the measure. So did Republicans and Democrats on the committee, who said the bill is a way to give districts flexibility in implementing smaller class sizes without having to amend the constitution. No one in the room spoke against the plan.

It remains to be seen if the proposal's constitutionality will be called into question, but committee members said they do not fear a court challenge.

"If this is going to bring us into a lawsuit so be it," said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach. "I think this is the time to stand our ground and do what's right."

[Last modified: Thursday, March 24, 2011 9:03am]


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