Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hillsborough County School Board worries about class size law

Posted By on Tue, Aug 10, 2010 at 6:34 PM

click to enlarge Maryellen

Florida voters will decide this November on Amendment 8, which would scale back the original 2002 class-size amendment.  Advocates say the measure would keep class sizes essentially where they are now, but get rid of what they term the law's costly and inflexible final requirements, which go into effect late this month, on the first day of school.

Certain school districts, like Hillsborough County, are vehemently against the hard caps and are very supportive of the measure.  Tuesday afternoon school board members discussed the issue.

Jennifer Faliero said "if you want this to go away so we can do something right for our teachers, vote this thing out of the constitution."

School Board Superintendent MaryEllen Elia told board members that "what I believe is that we provide the facts for the public so that can make the appropriate decision (at the ballot box).  This will affect schools, teachers, students and families.  It may not be your family now, but it could possibly affect your family in the future."

Elia said that if the district isn't in compliance - which would be determine on a single day sometime in October - the financial penalties could be in the millions.  Conversely, if the district is in compliance, it could receive millions of dollars.

When the law kicks in later this month, the maximum for the number of students in high school class will be 25, for middle school, 22, and for the lower grades 18.  Elia says that if there is just one extra student in one class, the entire district would be found out of compliance.

School Board Chair Susan Valdes urged parents to make sure to have their students registered as soon as possible if they aren't yet, so that the district can get in compliance.  "We're not saying smaller classes aren't better," she said, "but the flexability will make life a little bit easier to accommodate choice."

Last month the statewide teacher's union, the Florida Education Association filed a lawsuit to keep the measure off the ballot .  They say the measure, approved by the Florida Legislature is misleading and an indirect way of reducing state funding for public schools.

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