Right Sizing Class Size Challenged

A Florida teachers union is trying to block a ballot initiative that aims to loosen class size requirements. The state legislature put the amendment on the ballot saying the last phase of class size is too restrictive. But, the Florida Education Association is asking a judge to kick it off the ballot, saying the issue is funding and the ballot language doesn’t mention dollars.

There’s only one open seat in Chemistry at Leon High School in Tallahassee. Strict class size requirements written into the state constitution cap high school classes at 25 students.

So if Principle Rocky Hanna gets two new students mid-year who need Chemistry, he has to tell one to take a hike. “We are out of luck here. There’s just no room”

Last year schools could meet class size requirements based on averages. Now they must meet the requirements individually. Hanna says the strictest phase comes on top of two straight years of budget cuts. “I had to lay off 10 teaching units last year. My secretary hasn’t had a raise in five years… I’m going to have to write her a check out of my own pocket.”

And with no money to hire new teachers, administrators are having to get creative. Here’s what it’s come to. More than 200 students at Leon High school have to take courses online because there’s no room in the classes.”

There is a legislative ballot initiative to ease class size restrictions, but Mark Pudlow with the Florida Education Association says the proposed amendment is really about money, not helping schools. The legislature says this is about flexibility but it’s really about funding, and the cut backs they’ve made in the education budget.”

While many administrators agree with the teachers union, they’re supporting the legislature’s fix, because they expect more budget cuts next year.

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