The state Board of Education has so far refused to let schools use “co-teaching” to meet class size requirements, but lawmakers and educators say the rule is more about playing politics than doing what’s best for students.
Many schools across Florida use co-teaching, but state officials recently ruled the practice of using more than one teacher per class does not help meet class size requirements.
State School Boards Association President Wayne Blanton is watching the co-teaching debate carefully at the Capitol. He says the state board had no business sticking its nose in to a local decision.
Wayne Blanton says, "For the state board to come in and say you can’t co-teach is an inappropriate use of their authority, and it’s a constitutional issue with us also that the state board cannot reach down to the local school board and say what you can and cannot do with your teachers."
Supporters say the state board ruling was just another way for Jeb Bush to make it hard on schools to comply with the class size amendment as part of a campaign to get rid of it.
If lawmakers refuse to allow co-teaching to county toward meeting the class size requirement, school boards have threatened to sue. Co-teaching allows them to bring down teacher-student ratios without building more classrooms.
Rep. Shelley Vana is sponsoring one of several bills in support of co-teaching.
Rep. Shelley Vana, (D) West Palm Beach, says, "Co-teaching is a best practice. It brings more expertise to the classroom; it helps children with special needs."
But supporters fear what’s best for kids might still get lost in the now four-year-old political debate over class size. The number of schools using co-teaching has increased dramatically since voters approved the class size amendment.
Thirty seven districts were using co-teaching during the 2002-2003 school year. By last year, that number had jumped to 53 districts.