WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal panel gave no love in a Valentine's Day appeal against a school district.
On Feb. 14, judges Jeffrey Kuntz, Martha Warner and Burton Conner affirmed the dismissal of the complaint brought on by Paul Kunz, as next friend of W.K., against the School Board of Palm Beach County for allegedly violating the Class Size Amendment as written in the Florida Constitution based on political reasoning.
According to authoring Kuntz, the classroom amendment, which is Article IX, Section 1 of the Florida Constitution, was created by a Florida legislator in an effort to screen classroom sizes in more than 4,000 public schools and “compelled appropriation to achieve a goal, and not a method of enforcement, it does not provide a private right of action to enforce any specific procedure,” according to the appeal.
Finding fault with the student-teacher ratio, W.K. alleges Florida has something to hide and by falsifying its class-size count and brought four complaints against the school board, including admitting the student-teacher ratio was undemocratic, ordering the board to correctly follow the Class Size Amendment, demanding a verification of all elementary schools throughout the U.S. and necessitate more teachers to elementary classes throughout the U.S. to comply correctly with the Class Size Amendment.
Citing the case's backstory, Kuntz noted that rather than amend the complaint after it was dismissed without prejudice, W.K., appealed all four charges. Beginning his analysis, he noted Florida has 67 school districts statewide, with each authorized to follow the 2002 Class Size Amendment in order to assure by 2010 the student-teacher ratio did not exceed 18 pupils to one instructor up to 3rd grade. 22 up to 8th grade and 25 up to 12th grade.
Citing Citizens for Strong Sch., Inc. v. Fla. State Bd. of Educ. 2017, Kuntz noted. “The Class Size Amendment specifically provides that ‘the legislature shall make adequate provision to ensure that’ the amendment is carried out,” according to the appeal adding “consistent with that obligation, ‘in the last two decades, K–12 education has been the single largest component of the state general revenue budget.’”
Considering the statewide rule in his argument, W.K. “purports to avoid attacking the legislative funding or the reporting requirements,” according to the appeal, further pointing out one school in particular.
“Under the district’s method, a class of 35 children can be averaged with one on-one remedial instruction, and the class goes from grossly over the limit to compliant,” Kuntz wrote in the appeal before noting why the Fourth Circuit panel of judges is limited in its authority to decide.
“Essentially, W.K. asks this court to reach inside a system established by the legislature and direct the process be conducted in a different manner,” Kuntz wrote in the appeal. “That we cannot do.
"It is not appropriate, nor would it be wise, for this court to order this specific school to conduct its count in a manner contrary to the system developed by the legislature. Nor is it appropriate for us to question whether the system established by the legislature is the most effective system.”
And if there was a chance for W.K. to make it possible for the panel to consider otherwise, Kuntz said he failed on that note as well.
“Finally, we note that the circuit court allowed W.K. the opportunity to file an amended complaint to correct the deficiencies in the original complaint. W.K. declined to do so,” Kuntz wrote in the appeal. “Therefore, to the extent any of the issues in the complaint could have been cured, those issues have been waived.”