FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – Broward County school officials are giving the state a C- for their efforts in reducing a penalty they fined the district for violating the class size cap.

Eric Smith, Florida’s Education Commissioner, has suggested that the penalty should only be reduced by about $74 thousand, which would reduce the $3 million penalty down to about $2.9 million.

“We were hoping for what we believed was a more balanced appeal,” Broward’s Superintendent Jim Notter told CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald who hoped for a more significant penalty decrease.

New caps for Florida classrooms, previously based on an average, were put in place at the beginning of this school year: 18 students for kindergarten through third-grade; 22 students for fourth-through eighth-grade; and 25 students for high school classrooms.

One student more and Florida’s school districts are at risk for a pricey penalty. Thirty-four school districts received fines that ranged anywhere from $1,000 to Palm Beach County’s $16.6 million. The Miami-Dade Schools District was fined $6.6 million and did not appeal it.

Unanticipated demographic shifts in schools, coupled with data errors, were looked at in granting the appeal, said a spokesman for the state Department of Education.

Broward Deputy Superintendent Joanne Harrison has questions as to why the majority of the appeal was denied.

“We are going to continue to question and figure out what happened,” she told the paper.

But there is a beam of hope, in the form of a 75% penalty reduction, for school superintendents who submit a plan by February 15th to adhere to the law for the next school year.

The state Legislative Budget Commission is expected to meet again in February.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report)


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