Ignoring Class Size Amendment unwise

Scarlett Callahan, Staff Writer

It has come to my attention that among the many changes that will take place next year due to budget cuts could be the abandonment of the meeting Florida’s Class Size Amendment in Brevard. Many of the major changes — such as the elimination of corridor busing and the $30 application fee — are directed only toward choice schools. But budget cuts also will devastate schools throughout the district, allowing teachers only one planning period, closing three schools and establishing pay-to-play sports.

The dozens of cuts alone were not enough to fill the $30 million hole in its budget, so the district is considering saving money by ignoring Florida’s Class Size Amendment, passed by voters in 2002. The policy applies to all Florida schools and limits the number of students in high-school core classes to 25. Compliance with this law costs the district roughly $5 million per year, so some have suggested the district can ignore the amendment and, as a result, pay a $100,000 fine. That’s a net savings of approximately $4.9 million. Ignoring the policy also means that Brevard County would no longer be considered a “high-performing” district and would be forced to start school two week later, pushing mid-term exams into January.

While the financial benefit of ignoring the Class Size Amendment might outweigh the risk, the fact of the matter is that if the school board chooses to ignore the amendment, it will be breaking the law. If the school board is justifying disobeying the law to alter a budget, its sending the message to students that it is acceptable to break the law too in certain circumstances.

In its defense, the school board presented half-cent sales tax referendum to voters last November that would have avoided all of the cuts being made for the 2013-2014 school year. However, critics say it did not communicate the importance of this tax enough to the public, and voters rejected the proposal.

The majority of the budget cuts that will alter the entire Brevard County school system would have been avoidable were it not for poor communication, which continues with errors on the district such as listing the application fee for choice programs at $20 when in actuality the fee is $30. The school board supposedly works for the students and teachers in Brevard, but it doesn’t always seem that way.