Judge tosses Boca Raton dad’s class-size lawsuit

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A judge has thrown out a lawsuit by a Boca Raton father who sought to require his son’s school to abide by the literal class-size limits set out in Florida’s constitution.

Attorney Paul Kunz sued the Palm Beach County School Board in 2015 after his son was placed in a kindergarten class with 21 students. A 2002 amendment to the state constitution calls for “core” K-3 classes to have no more than 18 students.

Attorney Paul Kunz

Paul Kunz

Kunz’s lawsuit took aim at the school’s decision to use a state-approved loophole to avoid hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes.

The lawsuit was filed nearly 1 ½ years ago but languished in court as Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Lisa Small mulled the school board’s motion to dismiss the case.

On Wednesday, Small grant the school board’s motion and tossed the suit, saying that a private individual does not have a right to sue a school board regarding the state’s class-size rules since the state government is responsible for their implementation.

“The Class Size Amendment only expressly imposes obligations on the state and not on district school boards,” she wrote.

Kunz said he was disappointed by the ruling and that he plans to appeal. (Read the ruling here).

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Lisa Small (Palm Beach Daily News file photo)

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Lisa Small (Palm Beach Daily News file photo)

“A parent does not have the right to challenge the school board’s compliance with the constitution?” he asked rhetorically.

Since the constitutional amendment took effect, state lawmakers have carved out several exemptions to the class-size limits, including for college-level courses, foreign-language classes, arts classes.

More recently, lawmakers in 2013 created a special waiver for so-called “schools of choice,” a designation that all public schools in Palm Beach County now claim, including the Addison Mizner Elementary in Boca Raton, which Kunz’s son attends.

Under the loophole, all “schools of choice” are allowed to measure their compliance based on their average class sizes rather than applying the limits to each classroom individually.

Kunz took issue not just with Mizner Elementary’s decision to declare itself a school of choice (it had no magnet, or “choice,” programs), and also with the entire loophole itself.

Florida education law experts said at the time that it appeared to be the first direct legal challenge to the legality of any of the Legislature’s class-size loopholes.

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