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Class Size Conundrum

February 23rd, 2009 by flanews

Economists met in Tallahassee today to figure out how many students will attend Florida’s public schools next year. Unless there are major decreases in the student population over the next two years, many schools will have problems meeting class size requirements. As Whitney Ray tells us, lawmakers are looking for ways to postpone the class size amendment to save schools money.

While Florida’s schools look for places to cut spending, a costly requirement to cap class sizes lurks around the corner. Right now a school wide average is used to measure class sizes. In 2010 the state will evaluate classes individually. Some principals say meeting the required ratio will be difficult because of budget cuts.

“You can’t have it both ways. You can’t meet class size and only fund 80 teachers at a high school of 2,000 kids. It’s impossible,” said Leon High School Principal Rocky Hanna.

The class size amendment caps kindergarten through 3rd grade classes at 18 students, 4th through 8th grade at 22, and high schools at 25.

The state has spent 10.5 billion dollars to reduce class sizes. It would cost an extra 1.5 billion to reach the final goal, but lawmakers want to put the plan on hold because of dwindling state revenues. Florida’s Education Association says lawmakers are using the economy as a copout.

“Their have been people who have opposed this from the very beginning and I think a lot of those people are using the downturn in the economy to go ahead and put a dagger in class size,” said FEA Spokesman Mark Pudlow.

This year only 39 schools out of more than 3,000 failed to meet the current class size requirements. As a punishment, schools violating the class size amendment are forced to move money earmarked for teacher’s salaries and operating costs to construction projects. The Department of Education waived the penalty for the 39 schools who failed to meet the requirements this year.

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