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Changing class size limits in Florida best for students, taxpayers

Florida should revisit the class size reduction law in grades 4 through 12 to maximize the use of the state's education funding, according to a report from Florida TaxWatch. The independent analysis in "Taking A Fresh Look At Florida's Class Size Limits" finds that investing in other educational practices could yield higher student achievement than restricting money to reducing class size, and could save the state up to $10 billion over ten years.

"The significant investment required from our state to comply with the class size mandate has drained our education system of the resources it needs to effectively enhance student achievement," said Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, the independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institute and government watchdog. "Florida should maximize the use of the taxpayers' hard-earned dollars to ensure every student has the resources they need to succeed. Evidence has shown that reducing class size across all grades, as now required, has not proved to give our taxpayers a good return on their investment."

Florida TaxWatch supports continuing the reduced class sizes as required in pre-kindergarten through third grade, but recommends allowing school districts to meet class size reduction mandates on a school level class size average for students in grades 4-12 through a Constitutional Amendment. TaxWatch proposes the savings from this change should be reinvested directly into the classroom to raise student achievement, such as in teacher development and classroom resources, and that it could total a $10 billion savings over 10 years.

Research has shown that smaller class sizes do benefit students in pre-kindergarten through grade 3, though reducing class size for students in grades 4-12 has not shown to increase student achievement. The report finds that smaller class sizes do not influence teaching methods, and that teacher inexperience hampers benefits of smaller classes.

Since voters approved a 2002 Constitutional Amendment to reduce class sizes, taxpayers have spent more than $27 billion (including capital facilities and operating costs) to comply with the law. Districts not in compliance are faced with fines and reduced budget appropriations. Many Florida districts are currently not complying with the law, preferring to pay fines that cost less than hiring new teachers to meet class size requirements.

"Florida's hard working taxpayers have spent more than $27 billion to reduce class sizes and the state has little to show for it," said Bob Nave, Director of the TaxWatch Center for Educational Performance & Accountability. "Florida has ample opportunities to increase student achievement at a much lower cost to taxpayers. Reinvesting money that has been restricted to class size compliance will equip Florida teachers with the tools they need to succeed in the classroom, and give more students access to a better quality education."

Read the report: "Taking a Fresh Look at Florida's Class Size Limits."

Florida Tax Watch

Florida TaxWatch is a statewide, non-profit, non-partisan research institute that over its 33-year history has become widely recognized as the watchdog of citizens' hard-earned tax dollars.  Its mission is to provide the citizens of Florida and public officials with high quality, independent research and education on government revenues, expenditures, taxation, public policies and programs and to increase the productivity and accountability of Florida state and local government. Its support comes from homeowners and retirees, small and large businesses, philanthropic foundations, and professional associations. On the web at www.FloridaTaxWatch.org.