Florida TaxWatch: Revisiting school class-size laws could save state $10 billion

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Government watchdog group Florida TaxWatch issued a new report today saying that revisiting the class-size reduction law for grades four through 12 could save taxpayers billions of dollars.

The report Taking A Fresh Look At Florida’s Class Size Limits was sponsored by the non-profit, non-partisan research institute. It concludes that investing in other educational practices could produce higher student achievement, rather than reducing class size.

The move away from class-size reductions could save Floridians as much as $10 billion over 10 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,” says Florida TaxWatch CEO Dominic M. Calabro. “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.”  

Although TaxWatch continues to support reducing class sizes for pre-kindergarten through third grade, the group recommends a Florida Constitutional amendment to allow school districts to meet class size reduction mandates for students in grades 4-12.

They also argue that savings from the changes be reinvested directly into the classroom to raise student achievement, teacher development and classroom resources. Since the 2002 Constitutional Amendment to reduce class sizes, Florida taxpayers spent $27 billion to comply with the law, including capital facilities and operating costs.

Citing studies that show no benefit for smaller class sizes in pre-kindergarten through grade 3, TaxWatch notes that reducing class size for students in grades 4-12 does not increase student achievement. Smaller class sizes do not influence teaching methods, and teacher inexperience often works against the benefits of smaller classes.  

“Florida has ample opportunities to increase student achievement at a much lower cost to taxpayers,” said Bob Nave, Director of the TaxWatch Center for Educational Performance & Accountability.

“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.” 

Taking A Fresh Look At Florida’s Class Size Limits is now available at www.FloridaTaxWatch.org.

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.