Keep state’s class-size mandate in force

Two years ago, parents in Miami-Dade County began to notice that school class sizes were larger than prior years, contrary to a constitutional amendment passed in 2002 to limit sizes for core classes. An attempt by the Legislature to amend it in 2010, utilizing a school-wide average to determine class size, failed to pass.

The Legislature has, over the years, whittled the constitutional amendment, defining most classes as extracurricular instead of core.

In 2013, the Legislature exempted magnet and charter schools from strict class-size requirements, and allowed them to utilize a school-wide average for calculating size. School districts then re-designated the schools as schools of choice to use this exception. But the re-labeling had attenuating problems.

School districts have since attempted to pass legislation to codify an average standard for all schools on the weak rationale that the constitutional amendment does not include a penalty provision, so the Legislature is free to formulate a penalty, even if contrary to the mandate.

A version of the prior maximum class size bills (HB 591/SB 808) is winding its way through the Legislature again this year.

In this version, however, the requirement of the districts to report to the Florida Department of Education the actual numbers of students per core class has been eliminated. The only way for the public to know whether the districts are in compliance is to pursue a public records request for each school in the state.

The public has a right to know whether the districts are complying with the constitutional class-size mandate on a classroom basis, not on a school-wide average basis. The Legislature is not free to eliminate strict reporting requirements.

This provision is contrary to the idea of transparency and accountability in government.

Kayla Rynor, Miami Beach Senior High PTSA,

Miami Beach