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School board sets 2010 legislative platform

By Staff | Oct 8, 2009

Freezing the Class Size Amendment, finding appropriate funding for schools and improving accountability are some of the issues on the Lee County School Board’s 2010 legislative platform.
Vice Chairman Steve Teuber, board legislative liaison, handed out the platform Tuesday afternoon.
He worked with Bob and John Cerra, political consultants with Cerra Consulting Group, to draft the platform, which is later distributed to the Lee County Legislative Delegation.
Perhaps the biggest change on this year’s platform is an attempt to freeze mandated reductions in the Class Size Amendment.
The amendment, enacted in 2002, will cap class size by 18 students in elementary, 22 in middle and 25 in high school.
While the original intent of the amendment was improve educational performance by decreasing class size, the cost of implementing it has burdened school districts with millions of dollars worth of needed renovations and changes.
“The biggest change was based upon input I received from board members and staff,” said Bob Cerra when he addressed the board in August. “There seems to be some interest in reviving an issue that used to be on our platform.”
Lee County is asking for a 2010 amendment to the Florida Constitution that would freeze the implementation of the Class Size Amendment. It also wants the use of school averages to satisfy the amendment rather than a class-by-class cap.
Loosening restrictions under the Class Size Amendment was a major issue for this year’s legislative session. The Florida House passed a bill that would have allowed district averages to be used, but the bill lost momentum in the Senate.
Cerra warned the school board that once class-by-class caps are instituted there will not be any opportunities for flexibility. Some flexibility was recently granted to middle and high schools to avoid scheduling problems for advanced or elective classes.
Yet the amendment has been successful overall in decreasing class size, he said.
In August, the board was hesitant to place the class size initiative on its legislative platform, but it has been included on the final platform handed out Tuesday.
“This type of an issue is more a state relegated issue and not something we’d want to put on our platform,” said Teuber.
The school board also has legislative platforms for the Florida School Boards Association and the Greater Florida Consortium of School Boards. Members said the class size issue should be included in those platforms and not the local one.
They are also asking that the state find a new plan to adequately fund public education, and to safeguard the 90 percent rule, which protects Lee County residents from sharing an unfair portion of statewide public school costs.
Instruction and accountability is also an issue on the platform. Officials want changes made to the school grading system and an update on the system for determining graduation rates.