Class-size costs prove tough to nail down


Published: Friday, January 28, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 11:18 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE - Lawmakers pressed administrators Thursday for estimates on what the state needs to spend to meet class-size reductions called for by voters in 2002, but got no firm figures in return.
"Worst-case scenario, where are we? Is it a $28 billion hit? Is it a $10 billion hit?" state Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, asked Jeanine Blomberg, who oversees class-size reduction at the state Department of Education.
Gov. Jeb Bush has used the higher figure, if the state is to meet voter goals by the 2010.
Blomberg told King and the Senate Education Appropriations subcommittee that she didn't have a projection, other than it would be "very, very high."
The state last year sent $1.5 billion to the school districts for class-size reduction. The state also provided about $690 million for facilities.
Blomberg said that if the state assumed that school boards were as efficient as possible and adjusted school boundaries and used all available space, the price "would continue to increase about half a billion dollars a year."
One lawmaker, doing his own math with Blomberg's estimates came up with a figure of $18 billion.
Bush, meanwhile, stood by his estimate of $25 billion to $28 billion.
"By 2010 . . . the numbers will be quite close to that," he said Thursday.
King, who was Senate president the last two years, said he has repeatedly asked for but has not been given a solid number.
"If it's low enough, we may say 'Hey, we don't have to worry about it, we really can do it,' " he said.
By 2010-11, every class through third grade is supposed to have no more than 18 students, every class in fourth grade through eighth grade is limited to 20 students and all high school classes are limited to 25 students.
Bush has made it clear he wants to get the provision out of the constitution. He has said he's not opposed to smaller class sizes but that imposing a strict cap across the board diverts money from other priorities.

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