Addressing Class Size in Florida

Gov. Bush is offering a new plan that includes incentives for teachers. If he gets his way that could split even the most ardent supporters of class size limitations.

Three months after reduced class size was added to the state Constitution, Jeb Bush was already calling for its repeal. This year's repeal by voters of the high speed train has given Bush and other political leaders new cover.

In what some are calling a stroke of masterpiece politics, Bush is promising higher teacher pay in exchange for lessening smaller class size requirements. Florida’s teacher union is torn.

Mark Pudlow, FEA spokesman, says, “You know, I think it was calculated to make sure that it was a difficult plan for us to look at.”

One day after Bush announced the repeal plan, the state Board of Education held a workshop on teacher recruitment.

Florida needs almost 20,000 teachers every year, but when the next step of smaller classes kicks in requiring smaller averages at the school level, state board chairman Phil Handy says the state will need 30,000 new teachers.

Phil Handy, Board of Education chairman, says, “It’s not all generated by class size, but half of it, half of it is by class size when you get down to the school by school definition. We didn’t make this up. This is the real deal.”

The repeal of the class size amendment has the support of both legislative leaders. There’s even talk of holding a special election sometime before November of 2006.

Holding an early election would guarantee a low turnout, something policy makers believe would favor repeal of the original class size proposal. Holding a special election on class sizes would require a three fourths vote of the state Legislature.