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PRESS RELEASE

December 27, 2005

Jennifer Fennell or
Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

Department of Education Announces School District Class Size Compliance Numbers

TALLAHASSEE — Education Commissioner John L. Winn today announced the 2006 school district class size compliance numbers. In a memo to superintendents, the Florida Department of Education (DOE) provided information on districts' class size averages and the proposed transfer amount for those districts. A total of six districts were found to be out of compliance — Charlotte, Franklin, Gulf, Manatee, Marion and St. Lucie. Using more than $3.7 billion appropriated by the Florida Legislature, the DOE and school districts have been faithfully implementing the class size amendment, resulting in a significant reduction to statewide class size averages.

Statewide District Class-Size Averages
  Grades PreK-3 Grades 4-8 Grades 9-12
Year 2002-03 23.07 24.16 24.10
Year 2003-04 20.54 22.43 24.06
Year 2004-05 18.98 21.32 23.73
Year 2005-06 18.16 20.48 22.96
Change from 2002-03 (4.91) (3.68) (1.14)

"In the years since the class size amendment was implemented, districts have made real progress in lowering class sizes. Their efforts are commendable and have resulted in extraordinary reductions, particularly at the prekindergarten through third grade level where we have an average of five less students per classroom," said Commissioner Winn. "Next year, districts are facing an even greater challenge as we transition to class size requirements calculated at the school-level as prescribed by Florida Statutes. This is why the State Board of Education and I have recommended $1.9 billion in facilities funding to help districts meet class size obligations, which should go a long way in eliminating the need for temporary measures, such as co-teaching."

While the State Board of Education (SBOE) recognizes co-teaching as a viable instructional strategy, it determined in June that co-teaching could not be used as a means to comply with the requirements of the class size amendment as outlined in Florida's State Constitution. The SBOE further determined that co-teaching would be included in this year's class size transfer calculation, but would not be included in the following year's calculation. Data on districts' use of co-teaching has not been finalized, but preliminary numbers suggest there will not be any school districts out of compliance due to co-teaching.

According to Florida Statute, for those districts not in compliance, a transfer of a portion of their operating budget to their fixed capital outlay budget will be made. These reallocated funds can be used by districts for the construction of new or expanded facilities in order to meet class-size requirements. The law directs the DOE to calculate for each district not in compliance a transfer amount proportionate to the amount of class size reduction not accomplished. This year, the initial calculation resulted in a total proposed transfer amount of $5.2 million. That figure was then adjusted for unexpected student growth, including the influx of students displaced by this season's hurricanes. This resulted in a reduction of nearly half a million dollars so that the adjusted total proposed transfer amount is $4.7 million and impacts six districts prior to the submission of appeals. Last year, a final transfer of just under $1.1 million affected nine districts. The DOE expects the 2006 final transfer amount to drop following the appeals process.

Impacted districts have a right to appeal the DOE's transfer calculation due to extenuating circumstances that prevented the district from meeting class size requirements despite good faith efforts to do so. The appeal is based on the submission of supporting documentation. The DOE has initiated the appeals process and is working to assist districts with this process. Following a review of districts' appeals, the SBOE and Legislative Budget Commission will meet for final approval of all transfer calculations. The DOE's transfer calculation already factors in districts' unexpected student growth.

"Although I am pleased with the progress we have made, Florida is still facing a shortage of more than 30,000 teachers," said Commissioner Winn. "My foremost concern is ensuring we have enough highly-qualified teachers in Florida classrooms next year. The beneficial effects of the class size amendment, if there are any, may be negated by the all too likely scenario that our schools are lacking thousands of qualified teachers."

In November 2002, Florida voters chose to amend the State Constitution to limit the maximum number of students in core-curricula courses assigned to one teacher. By the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, prekindergarten through third grade classes are required to have a maximum of 18 students, fourth through eighth grade classes must not exceed 22 students and ninth through twelfth grade classes must have no more than 25 students. In order to meet these requirements, the Legislature enacted a bill reducing the number of students in each classroom beginning in fiscal year 2003-2004, by two students per year until the maximum number of students does not exceed the limits defined in the amendment. Districts were required to reduce in each of the three grade groupings at the district level for the 2003-2004 through 2005-2006 school years, at the school level for the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years and at the classroom level beginning with the 2008-2009 school year.

Memo to superintendents, statewide summary of district-level class size averages and proposed transfer calculations by district are attached.