Last Updated: November 26, 2010
This article appeared in the November 2010 Rural Policy Matters.
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An initiative to relax Florida’s new class size limits failed earlier this month on Election Day. The ballot question would have changed Amendment 8 of the Florida Constitution to raise size limits and to allow public schools to meet the requirements by keeping average class size within limits. Instead, schools will have to adhere to strict enrollment caps for core subjects of 18 students in Grades K–3, 21 students in Grades 4–8, and 25 students in Grades 9–12.
Rural and other schools have expressed serious concerns about the strictness of the class size caps, and many favored the flexibility that the change would have allowed. (See RSFN coverage here: http://www.ruraledu.org/articles.php?id=2545)
The Florida Education Association had asked the Florida Supreme Court to remove the question from the ballot.
The limits have been phased in. This year is the first time districts had to meet the absolute caps or face fines for noncompliance.
With 55% of the vote, the measure to relax class limits came close to passing. But a constitutional change requires 60% of the vote.
Analysts have pointed out that many of Florida’s newly-elected leaders have promoted fiscal constraints and reductions in the size of government, rhetoric that contrasts with funding levels needed to ensure schools can meet the class size limits.
Several alternative strategies have been proposed for dealing with the law, including requiring schools to meet the limits when school opens, but making exceptions when students transfer into schools later in the year.
Analysis of the class size limits as policy:
Editorial calling for legislative adjustments to the policy:
Read more from the November 2010 Rural Policy Matters.