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Broward, Miami-Dade Schools May Face Big Fines Over Class Size

MIAMI (CBS4)- Broward County and Miami-Dade County schools faces the threat of million dollar fines from the state for having its core classes violating size requirements this fall.

Broward County, a district beset by the loss of 1,100 teachers, is facing $66 million in fines, CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald reported. It is the largest fine imposed on any of the state's 67 school districts, according to figures released by the Florida Department of Education this week.

Although the Miami-Dade school district was second on the list, its $9.3 million fine is a fraction of that imposed on Broward, according to the Herald.

Broward County is planning to file an appeal by the state's February deadline. Both counties intend to submit plans on how they would meet class-size requirements in the upcoming school year, which would reduce the blow of the penalties by 75 percent.

In Broward's case, the fine would be reduced to $16 million.

"It's still quite a chunk of money that we could use to hire teachers and put some really good programs back in the schools," said Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie.

Even so, it's a dramatic increase from the $732,000 the school paid last year when it only reached 97.5 percent compliance with the state mandate.

So what led to the substantial hike?

Last spring, facing a $141 million budget gap, the Broward district had to eliminate 1,100 teaching positions. It also started a strategy of trying to evenly distribute the overflow of students to stay as close to the state requirements as possible.

In Miami-Dade, the nation's fourth largest school district, administrators were able to reach a 99 percent level of compliance this year, but even that was not enough to ward off the fines.

Both districts are pinning their hopes on relief from state lawmakers during the 2012 legislative session, where bills aimed at waiving the fees have been introduced. Last year, a constitutional amendment to ease classroom size rules was voted down by voters statewide.

For the full story, click here.

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