Florida Board of Education members want another look at class size rules

GARY CHARTRAND HEADSHOT

by: Jeffery S. Solochek|Tampa Bay Times

August 26, 2015

Discussing legislative priorities for the coming session, some Florida Board of Education members renewed their desire to see the 2002 class size amendment scaled back in its application.

Calling the law “foolish,” board member Gary Chartrand said he would urge lawmakers to take steps to make it easier for schools to measure class size as a school-wide average rather than a classroom count. He suggested a measure to apply penalties at the school average level — simiilar to a bill that did not make its way through the spring 2015 session.

“I’ve been talking about this since I came on the board four years ago,” Chartrand said. “I want to make sure I’m vocal on my issue.”

He said the board could add the idea to its legislative priority list, or deal with the item individually. Other board members said they would like more information.

“I want to be very clear, at this moment we are all in agreement that we’d like to hear more,” chairwoman Marva Johnson said.

The board asked staff to bring more details to its next meeting in September.

Senate Education Committee chairman John Legg said in a telephone interview that he fully expected a class size bill to be filed. He said he would not stand in its way, but “I will consistently vote no. … That’s what the voters wanted.”

Sumter County superintendent Richard Shirley told the board that the Florida Association of District School Superintendents supports changing the amendment. He noted that when schools in his small district must reorganize classes to cope with new students who push classrooms out of compliance, it disrupts education in a way that’s “counterintuitive to what we wanted.”

“The parents of the 21 children we moved weren’t that happy with the class size amendment,” Shirley said after giving an example.

No class size bills have yet been filed for the 2016 session. Committees are set to begin meeting in September.

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