110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Al Everson
posted Jan 22, 2013 - 7:30:35am
The Volusia County School Board approved a plan at its Jan. 15 meeting that calls for hiring more teachers to bring down class sizes.
The plan was required by the Florida Department of Education, which fined Volusia County $2.8 million for having bigger classes than the state constitution allows.
If the state approves the plan, the fine could be reduced by 75 percent.
The School Board voted unanimously in favor of a resolution and the proposal to reduce the ratios of students to teachers at all grade levels, to meet the standards imposed by an amendment to the Florida Constitution approved by voters in 2002.
The state said Volusia County exceeded the minimums in about 18 percent of its core academic classes.
“If only one class is out of compliance, the entire district is out of compliance,” Assistant Superintendent for Finance Robert Moll told the School Board.
The fine will take the form of reduced state appropriations for the district for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
The proposal consists of hiring 123 teachers, on paper at least, for the 2013-14 academic year. That would cost the school system approximately $7 million, Moll said. He also cautioned that many variables and unknowns could affect implementation of the plan.
“We are using 2013 data in order to comply with a 2014 scenario,” Moll said. “We know that our populations change, and we know there are shifts all the time.”
In addition to the need to comply with class-size requirements, the Volusia County School Board is dealing with declining revenues in a weak economy; the voters’ rejection of an additional 1-mill property tax; and the prospect of yet another decline in enrollment next fall.
The current enrollment is about 60,000, and Moll projected the local school system may lose as many as 400 students before the beginning of the next academic year. A loss in the number of students results in less funding for the School District.
Moll noted the school system may have avoided the violations, if more cash had been available when the 2012-13 school year began.
“We simply ran out of funds to hire the teachers that we needed,” he said.
Some classes became overcrowded, based on the state’s standards, and educators had not foreseen the situation.
“There was little room for growth, so when students walked in, there was no place to put them,” Moll said.
He noted it is difficult to guess ahead of time how many students will move in and out of classes and neighborhoods.
“Only time will tell,” he advised the School Board.
The state’s class-size standards require core classes in kindergarten through third grade to have no more than 18 pupils, while classes in grades four through eight may have no more than 22, and classes in ninth through 12th grades may be no larger than 25 students.
Volusia was not the only school district found to be out of compliance with the law on class sizes. Other counties, including Duval, Alachua, Marion and Manatee, were also fined.
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