Class Size Bill in Florida Shifts Fines, Penalties


A bill that just passed the Florida House with a vote of 107-3 could cause school districts to be subject to fewer penalties when in violation of class size limits.

Districts that allow too many students into classes are subject to a fine.  The money from that payment is split between districts who remain in compliance.  However, the new bill would allow schools to arrive at a class size figure based on the school average instead of automatically paying a penalty for a class size considered to be too large.

Rep. Kristin Jacobs said she will support the bill after Broward County was subjected to $11 million in penalties.

“None of those dollars came back to Broward County to help us solve the problem,” Jacobs said. “Our school board is working very hard every day to meet the requirements of class size and the challenges that it represents in a county that has 1.8 million people.”

The bill would allow districts to keep the money they would have had to pay to the state in fines for having oversized classes.  Instead of offering it to the state, the money would be spent on trying to reduce class sizes within the district.

The reduction in class sizes across the state was approved by voters in 2002 in an effort to keep class sizes to a minimum.  The legislature was given eight years to determine whether or not enough classrooms existed in districts to comply with the amendment.  However, rules have been implemented in that time to reduce the requirements, such as cutting the number of classes that must follow the class-size limits by about two-thirds, writes Gina Jordan for WLRN.

Classes in the state must be capped somewhere between 18 and 25 students, depending on the grade level, according to House Minority Leader Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach.  Core classes must be limited to 18 students from kindergarten through third grade, 22 students from fourth through eighth grade, and 25 students in high school.

“It is 2015, and we’re very far away from those types of numbers,” Pafford told House members. “The Legislature has reinterpreted and built rules to basically go (around) what the people wanted.”

The House is considering other educational reforms, including encouraging children to begin to wear uniforms.  The House voted 102-8 on the idea, which would provide $10 per student in additional funding to schools that required students to wear uniforms.  Currently, districts receive around $7,000 per student.

According to legislatures, the uniforms would increase school safety and reduce the stress of finding a new outfit each day.