Give Florida schools flexibility to meet student needs

Candace Lankford

It seemed like a terrific idea in 2002, when the Classroom Size Reduction Amendment (CSR) was adopted by the voters mandating a specific number of students — caps — in every “core” classroom at every grade level: in grades pre-kindergarten through third, the cap was 18 students; in grades 4-8 22 students; and grades 9-12 25 students. Core classes included math, science, social studies, language arts and foreign languages. However, the unintended consequence of this inflexible constitutional amendment has wreaked havoc with many students’ schedules, frustrated families and drained much needed resources from our schools. At the end of the day, it is not in the best interest of our students’ education and more flexibility is needed — here’s why.
University High, a school of approximately 1,900 students, made more than 700 schedule changes in one week alone in order to maintain compliance. Spruce Creek High, three weeks before the CSR’s arbitrary compliance date, had 100 sections with only one or two students more than the cap. Not too bad for a high school with more than 2,800 students — until you hear that those 100 sections encompassed 32 different subject areas. Southwestern Middle School admitted a new student last week, and in order to maintain CSR compliance the school had to modify many other students’ schedules. This was done during the last week of the first nine-week grading period. Does the word “nuts” come to mind?