Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre-K – 12 Education on SB 808, a bill related to maximum class sizes in public schools. Sponsored by Senator Debbie Mayfield, SB 808 revises the method for calculating financial penalties for school districts that fail to comply with the maximum class size limits established in the Florida Constitution.
Florida TaxWatch has written extensively on the need for class size reform. In March 2014, TaxWatch began a three-part series on the need to take a fresh look at class size limits to determine whether the anticipated student achievement gains had been realized and whether the costs associated with class size reduction were supported. Based upon this research, TaxWatch has consistently recommended that the state continue efforts to reduce class sizes to 18 students or fewer in pre-kindergarten through grade 3, and relax the maximum class size requirements in grades 4 through 12.
It is important to note that SB 808 does not change the maximum class size limits in the Constitution. It does, however, change the method for calculating the financial penalty for non-compliance from the class-size average to the school-wide average for all public schools. In so doing, SB 808 will dampen the financial burden on school districts that struggle to comply with the maximum class size limits. In many cases, these are districts that must make the choice between hiring more teachers to comply, or save vital programs and staff.
SB 808 is now scheduled to go to the full Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.