Oh, the unintended consequences.
In 2002, Florida voters approved the class-size amendment.
Sounded like a great idea to set lower teacher-to-student ratios to improve the quality of education.
Classrooms would be capped at 18 students through third grade, at 22 students for grades four through eight, and 25 students for high school classes.
The yield: more teacher time per student, and no overwhelmingly large class sizes.
School districts around Florida spent untold millions of dollars to try to meet the mandate. When times were good, it looked like a challenging — but attainable — goal.
Then the bottom fell out of the economy and families, businesses and government at all levels struggled to stay upright.
Bank bailouts, home foreclosures, bankruptcies of two of the big three U.S. automakers, and huge deficits at county, school district and state levels ensued.
Out there among all the struggle for survival is the class-size amendment, and the state enforcement apparatus, marching forward with all the emotion and empathy of a drill press.
On Monday night, the Manatee School Board held a public hearing to discuss the challenges it faces with the class-size amendment.
If the district fails to achieve its class-size mandate by October, it faces penalties of up to $3,000 per student, Herald educator writer Natalie Alund reported.
Margi Nanney, spokeswoman for the school district, confirmed that the district is looking at a possible penalty of about $500,000.
Considering the huge deficit that the state of Florida itself is facing, and the amount of education funding that the state is failing to deliver to local school districts, this potential penalty is a hard one to swallow.
Given the cruel changes in the economy, you would think some farsighted state leader — the governor maybe, or the legislature — would have crafted a way out of a situation that is unfair and a little crazy.
It seems like our world has had to adapt, bend, warp, you name it, to cope with the grand recession.
Surely there is a sympathetic and wise judge somewhere who could stay the class-size rules for a year or two.
Well, maybe not.
Our only resort may be the referendum in November that will allow voters to decide whether to relax class-size rules.
It’s a fine mess we find ourselves in, and points up the folly of installing grand-sounding ideas in the state Constitution through voter referendum.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.