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School boards to sue over co-teaching rule

Associated Press
Published November 22, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - Local school boards are preparing to sue the state Board of Education over a rule that will ban placement of two teachers in one classroom next year as a way to meet class size requirements.

The Florida School Boards Association and some individual boards will ask a judge in about two weeks to block the rule and restore the practice known as team teaching or co-teaching, association executive director Wayne Blanton said Monday. He said the association decided to sue only after state officials refused to negotiate on the issue.

"School districts are having a very difficult time complying with class size mandates without losing something as valuable as co-teaching," said Hillsborough County School Board member Jack Lamb, the association's president.

School districts have reduced the need to build new classrooms to meet the size reduction requirements by doubling up classes in a single room with two teachers.

The Board of Education in June decided that although team teaching can continue for academic reasons, it cannot be used to avoid smaller classes, starting in the 2006-07 school year.

Voters in 2002 required smaller classes through an amendment to the Florida Constitution. Gov. Jeb Bush opposed the amendment on grounds that building new classrooms and hiring more teachers just to have smaller classes would cost too much. He is supporting efforts to repeal or modify the amendment. The Board of Education in September also urged its repeal.

"Co-teaching's not a bad idea at all," Bush said. "The problem is that the class size amendment clearly prohibits the use of co-teaching as a means of lowering class sizes."

Department of Education spokeswoman Jennifer Fennell denied the co-teaching rule is intended to make compliance more difficult and, thus, help persuade voters to repeal the amendment. "We're properly implementing what the Constitution says," she said.

An overcrowded classroom is still overcrowded whether it has one teacher or two, Fennell said.

Last year, Florida schools had more than 500 double classes with two teachers each, and it would cost at least $50-million to build enough new space to split them up, according to the local school boards group.

By 2010, the amendment will require schools to have classes of no more than 18 pupils in prekindergarten through third grade, 22 students in fourth through eighth grades and 25 students in high school.

[Last modified November 22, 2005, 02:15:27]

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