Lawmaker: Class-size focus to be on K-3

Published: Saturday, January 11, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 10, 2003 at 10:58 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE - A key state lawmaker said Friday that the state House will focus on kindergarten through third grade as it tries to comply with a class-size mandate.
Voters last year approved a ballot measure that requires the state to limit class sizes and carry the cost of doing so.
Under the measure, by 2010 a classroom can have no more than 18 pupils in pre-kindergarten through third grade, 22 pupils in fourth through eighth grade and 25 students in high school. Between now and then, lawmakers must provide the money to reduce the average class size by two students per year, but lawmakers get to decide what "average" means.
Estimates of the eight-year cost of the amendment range from $4 billion to $27 billion.
Relying on an analysis prepared by state economists last summer, Education Commissioner Jim Horne has said the state would need $628 million next year to hire about 7,800 teachers to lower class size by two students.
But the state is still waiting to get a better measure of the current capacity of Florida's schools, which may lower the projection. And the estimated cost could drop if the state or districts decide on options such as lengthening the school day or scheduling double sessions.
Rep. David Simmons, chair of the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, told his panel Friday that lawmakers had broad leeway in implementing the class-size measure.
"We're going to push for an emphasis on K-3," the Longwood Republican said.
A spokesman for the class-size campaign agreed that lawmakers have a lot of flexibility, but still must meet the new constitutional requirement that they reduce class size. "I think what it comes down to is the people who voted for it expect smaller classes," Damien Filer said.

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