The “Class Size Compromise” House and Senate members have hashed out lets schools shuffle staff and schedules, and provides about $600 million to start building new classrooms. It leaves out a plan to dramatically expand vouchers and a big teacher incentive program, but additional vouchers through corporate tax breaks are still in.
Gov. Jeb Bush has fought the class size mandate all along, but he says if it has to happen, he can live with this compromise.
“It doesn't hurt the budget in the sense that it allows us to meet the priorities of Medicaid and our general school funding so I think it provides flexibility and it's the right way to go,” Gov. Bush said.
One of the biggest criticisms of the compromise bill is it lets students graduate with fewer credits. Critics say that's speeding students through schools at the expense of their education.
Rep. Bob Henriquez says letting students cut out electives like art and music sends the wrong signal.
“First of all it lowers standards for our students at a time when we're trying to raise standards and create accountability in our school system,” Henriques stated.
Wayne Blanton with the Florida Association of School Boards didn't like the reduced credit option either, but he says it was critical that the state give schools flexibility.
“You know, Jackson County is not the same as Dade County. We've got to make sure the different districts can react to the class size amendment and accomplish what the people of Florida have asked us to do, says Blanton.
Even supporters say the bill's not perfect, but it's a start. The House is set to take up its version of the class size bill for final passage later Friday and send it to the Senate for approval. The Senate version is identical and it is expected to easily pass.