Putting Education Reform To The Test

Analyzing Florida’s Class Size Limit Penalties

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

Florida lawmakers may change the rules for calculating class size limits, which could give district schools more flexibility.

Florida lawmakers are considering a bill which would change the way the state calculates class size limits required by the state constitution.

Lawmakers may allow district schools to use the more flexible rules granted to charter schools.

District schools must calculate the class size of every classroom and count every violation. Charter schools are allowed to use a school-wide average, which school officials say is more forgiving.

In the 2010-2011 school year, 28 of 71 Florida schools districts — 39 percent — were penalized for not meeting class size limits, according to state data. In 2011-2012, 22 of 71 Florida districts — 31 percent — did not meet class size limits.

By contrast, six of 457 charter schools did not meet class size limits in the 2010-2011 school year — 1.3 percent. In the 2011-2012 school year 15 of 517 charter schools did not meet the limits — 2.9 percent.

Schools which do not abide by the limits suffer a financial penalty — losing half their share of a state funding source for every student above the class size limit.

Those penalties can add up: Broward County schools have lost $9.4 million in funding over the past two years for class size violations, according to state data. Palm Beach and Miami-Dade schools were penalized more than $2 million each over the past two years, while Duval County schools lost more than $1 million.

That money is transferred to schools which abide by class size limits.

Hillsborough County school, for instance, have received an additional $2.3 million over the past two years at the expense of Broward schools and others. Orange County schools received $2.1 million while Pinellas and Polk County schools received more than $1 million each.

The Florida Department of Education has more details about how class size is calculated on their website.

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