Florida school districts face millions in class size fines
TALLAHASSEE, Florida: Class size requirements in Florida remained untouched following the November 2 general elections. The Florida Class Size, Amendment 8 measure was defeated by voters after it failed to acquire the minimum 60% approval rating. The legislation asked for voters to change the Florida Constitution's "'maximum' class sizes to school-wide 'average' class sizes."
In early January 2011 Florida education officials announced that they planned to issue $43 million in penalties to school districts, laboratory and charter schools for violations in class size limits. At the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year the State Department of Education estimated that a total of $131 million in fines would be issued. According to reports, 25 of the 35 school districts that have been found in violation of the state law have appealed. The appeals will be considered during the state board's January 18 meeting. However, before the fines are issued they must be approved by the Legislative Budget Commission. According to reports the commission may issue their decision in February.
Part of the funds collected due to non-compliance will be redirected to those that are in compliance. According to news reports schools and districts found in non-compliance will have a chance to re-collect their funds if a plan is submitted that outlines how they plan to meet the state's requirements and ensure compliance by October 2011.
Class size limits were first introduced in 2002 when Amendment 9 was approved by Florida voters - 52% were in favor. The amendment to the state Constitution required that the class sizes be limited by Fall 2010. High school classes would have been limited to 25 students; fourth through eighth grades to 22 students; and pre-kindergarten through third grade to 18 students. The Florida Department of Education estimated in early 2010 that 2,769 schools statewide still would not be able to comply. According to the Department of Education 33% of pre-kindergarten classes didn't meet the cap in Fall 2009.