Class Size Penalties Headed to Legislature

By: Whitney Ray Email
By: Whitney Ray Email

Tallahassee, FL - Thirty-five of Florida’s 67 school districts couldn’t hire enough teachers to meet class size requirements written into the state constitution.

Hillsborough County was the largest school district able to meet class size and it wasn’t easy.

“It took incredible time and commitment by the staff in every school and at the district level, and a constant review of what was happening in every classroom,” said Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia.

Palm Beach, Broward, Miami and 32 other districts weren’t so fortunate. The state board of education wants them to pay 30 million dollars in fines. Half of those belong to Palm Beach. The fines were lowered by 10 million dollars after districts appealed the penalties.

“If a district was able to present a compelling case that showed they had a surge in enrollment or enrollment shift that couldn’t be accounted for in advance then we made adjustments to that,” said Education Commissioner Eric Smith.

The revised fines now head to the legislature for final approval. But some districts may not wait on the legislature and instead take the state to court.

The state is required to adequately fund education. Many believe that half the districts out of compliance with class size is proof the state isn’t doing it’s job.

A legislative committee will begin reviewing the fines in mid-February. The penalties will be finalized by the end of April. Districts that met class size will be awarded five percent of the penalty money. The rest of the cash will be given back to the districts that come up with a solid plan to meet class size next year.

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