BY MATT LIBANOFF
Cooper City High School recently rescheduled some classes in order to comply with an October 15th deadline for class size restrictions.
Due to budget cuts and teacher surplusing, core classes at Cooper City High School had class sizes this year above the limit set by the state legislature. However, because of the mandate that goes into effect October 15, core classes at CCHS will be reapportioned to 25 students per class. This would mean that classes with over 25 students would have students removed and placed into new classes, formed during the middle of a semester already in progress.
In 2002, Florida voters approved the Class Size Reduction Amendment that set limits on the number of students in core classes (Mathematics, English, Science, and Social Sciences) in Florida public schools. The limit for grades 9 through 12, starting with the 2010-2011 school year is 25 students per core class.
Beginning in 2003 the Florida Legislature enacted Senate Bill 30-A. SB 30-A amended the 2002 bill by requiring public schools in Florida to reduce the number of students in each core class by two students per school year, beginning with the 2003-2004 school year. Schools were to continue to reduce class sizes by two students per year until the maximum number of students per classroom did not exceed what the 2002 Class Size Reduction Amendment mandates (25 students for grades 9-12 core classes).
“In previous years, we were able to meet the requirement by a school wide average of 25:1,” Assistant Principal Ann Rocco said.
Though CCHS is reapportioning class sizes, the Class Size Reduction Amendment can be overturned. With the November 2010 election approaching, the Florida Legislature approved a constitutional amendment, Amendment 8, to be placed on the ballot that will allow voters the ability to change the state’s current maximum class size for core classes to the “school-wide average [core] class sizes.” If the Amendment 8 is approved, the maximum size of core classes will be calculated based on the school-wide average of the number of students in core classes assigned to each teacher. Sixty percent of voters in the November election must approve Amendment 8 for the relaxed standards to take effect
“We were working towards the 25 student limit before the current decision,” Rocco said. “But on a school-wide average.”
According to Rocco, approximately 70% of core classes at CCHS are currently over the limit of 25 students; some as much as nine or 10 students. CCHS was working towards phasing in the class size limits, but due to the recession and budget cuts, the school was unable to comply with the law.
If the school district does not meet the requirements for class sizes, they face being fined by the state. For the School Board of Broward County, the fine could be as high as $35.9 million. Broward County recently raised property taxes to cover the $70 million it says it will cost to comply with the law.
On October 5, the Broward County School District held a Class Size Reduction Teacher Job Fair so as to meet the state’s class size requirements. Positions were offered only in certain subject areas for the remainder of the school year, and for one year only.
For the entire school district to act in accordance with the limits set by the state, as many as 450 teachers will have to be hired to accommodate the small class limits, and the rising number of students enrolled in Broward County public schools.