Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough School Board votes to support Amendment 8 class-size freeze

TAMPA — With little more than a week to go until districts are held accountable for meeting the final phase of Florida's class-size law, Hillsborough County schools are swinging into compliance.

But not without a fight.

On Tuesday, the School Board voted unanimously to support Amendment 8, which would roll back the 2002 initiative to last year's "school average" level and modify the enrollment caps that schools are scrambling to meet.

"It will give our schools flexibility in terms of meeting class-size," said chairwoman Susan Valdes, referring to the Nov. 2 ballot item. "And it will return local control to our schools in terms of scheduling."

By Oct. 15, districts must reduce class sizes to 18 students per teacher in kindergarten through third grade, 22 students in fourth through eighth grade, and 25 in high school.

If the amendment passes, schools next year would have to maintain average enrollments at those levels, but individual classrooms could be as large as 21, 27 and 30 students respectively.

Teachers union president Jean Clements said it would be a mistake to modify the state law.

"Our Constitution calls for a free and adequately funded education," she said. "Had the Legislature ever done that, this constitutional amendment would never have come up."

But board members said the final phase of the law has proved too costly. "It's hurting everything progressive this district has done, just to meet class size," said Jennifer Faliero.

Whether Amendment 8 passes, districts must comply with the current law by next week's deadline or face stiff penalties.

Working toward that goal has cost Hillsborough $1.5 billion in state money since 2003 to build more schools or hire teachers. And it has wreaked havoc with student schedules, said deputy superintendent Ken Otero.

"I called three high schools," he said. "One of them (has made) over 500 schedule changes."

Since Sept. 24, Hillsborough has reduced its total number of oversized class sections from 1,883 to just 300 on Tuesday, according to district records.

Plant High School, which accounted for 101 of those classes, is down to zero. So is Ruskin Elementary, which had 125 class periods out of compliance as recently as Friday.

Ismael Lebron, an assistant principal at Ruskin, said his school was able to erase the imbalance by hiring four teachers. But he worries new arrivals could push his kindergarten or fifth grade over the limit. "We might enroll three to five kids a week," Lebron said. "We've just got to monitor it."

And how. If Hillsborough complies with the law, it will earn up to $35 million in state reward money. But if the district miscalculates by a single student out of 192,000, it won't see a dime.

"It's that one student that could put the whole district in danger of not meeting class size," Otero said. "That's the nightmare."

Tom Marshall can be reached at or (813) 226-3400.

Hillsborough School Board votes to support Amendment 8 class-size freeze 10/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 10:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  2. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  3. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title


    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  4. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.

  5. IT failure blamed for British Airways cancellations (w/video)


    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend.

    Passengers wait at a British Airways check-in desk after the airport suffered an IT systems failure Saturday at London''s Gatwick Airport. [Associated Press]